The Darkness: A cryptic post-apocalyptic horror
by Vladan Petkovic
- Daniel Castro Zimbrón transcends classic horror tropes to create an atmospheric horror film that sets itself apart from the crowd
Mexican director Daniel Castro Zimbrón's second feature The Darkness can be best described as an atmospheric post-apocalyptic horror. Although, while it does feature a cabin in the woods, creepy dolls and gas masks, it is not simply a mix of horror tropes. After opening L'Étrange Festival last month, it has arrived at the Warsaw Film Festival in the International Competition.
Middle-aged Gustavo (Brontis Jodorowski, seemingly carrying all the intensity of his father's earlier films) lives in a lonely old house in the forest with his two sons, Marcos (Fernando Álvarez Rebeil), in his late teens or early twenties, and teenager Argel (Aliocha Sotnikoff), as well as his small daughter Luciana (Camila Robertson Glennie). It is always dark inside, as the forest around them seems to be covered in perpetual fog. And there seems to be a monster wandering outside – every now and then there is a loud growl, the trees start to sway, although there is no wind, and large shadows cross quickly over the windows. In these moments, Gustavo locks himself in the basement with his children.
But the family has to eat, so Gustavo and Marcos put on gas masks, grab rifles, and go out hunting. After the first of such outings, Gustavo returns without Marcos, saying the beast got him. He then chugs from a bottle of booze and orders Argel to prepare food.
Meanwhile, little Luciana spends most of the time on her bed in the corner of the basement, drawing in a notebook, and coughing, usually in fever. Argel and Luciana are very close, and Gustavo seems caring, but also far too strict. He has a padlock on the door to his room and forbids the kids to enter.
For Argel, the nature of the post-apocalyptic world and the supposed presence of a monster do not seem to completely add up to Marcos' disappearance and he begins to suspect his father.
The Darkness is indeed very dark, with most of the action taking place in shadow. The film develops slowly, leaning heavily on atmosphere and leaving plenty to imagination, right up to the ambiguous ending. It is a rather original take on several classic premises, but it might be a little too cryptic for its own good. Still, it definitely stands out in the sea of Spanish-language fantasy/horror offerings available.