- Maria Bello as Adelle
- Sean Bean as James
- Maurice Roëves as Dafydd
- Sophie Stuckey as Sarah
- Abigail Stone as Ebrill
The Dark is a strange little horror film that took me more than a little by surprise. Mixing Welsh mythology, strange occurrences and the levels one is willing to go to bring a child back, it is frightening to say the least. Although the ending becomes way too confusing, The Dark up until then is a generally effective horror flick with eerie, gothic menace.
Adelle brings her teenage daughter Sarah to a remote Welsh farmhouse in order to mend her relationship with both her daughter and estranged husband James. But before any fixing of fractious relationships can begin, a tragedy befalls Adelle and James. Whilst searching the rocks near the cliff side, Sarah vanishes and is presumed dead. Adelle refuses to believe that her daughter is dead, but secretly feels maternal guilt for feeling that she wasn’t there for Sarah. In flashback, we see the broken relationship between the two of them and how it has affected them. Not long after, Adelle finds a young traumatized girl in the old abandoned abattoir, who bears a strong resemblance to her daughter . In the midst of this tragedy, Adelle discovers the strange and disquieting history of the farmhouse from the farm hand Dafydd. The farm was once owned by a minister who believed in ancient folklore. According to Welsh folklore, there is a place called Annwyn, which is the afterlife. He had a sickly daughter by the name of Ebrill, who he gave to the ocean. He then convinced his followers to sacrifice themselves by throwing themselves into the oncoming waves in order to bring his daughter back. She did return, but this time tragic consequences followed as a result. The girl who Adelle found appears to be Ebrill, but James doesn’t believe this at first and thinks Adelle is diving into something she shouldn’t. Adelle becomes convinced that Ebrill has taken Sarah’s place and that her daughter is still alive. This throws her into the realms of folklore and terror as she attempts to find an answer.
John Fawcett creates a creepy atmosphere of tension and ominous warnings by using the Welsh setting and mythology to chilling effect. The cliffs and raging waves that are repeatedly seen add to the strange history of the place and the revelations that Adelle uncovers whilst in mourning for her lost daughter. Some of the scares within The Dark may be cliché, but they don’t half make you jump all the same. Plus, under the grey and melancholy colours that saturate The Dark there is many a startling use of imagery, particularly in two gruesome scenes of trepanning and a menacing flock of sheep that charge without warning. Where The Dark stumbles is its final half, in which the story becomes too confusing and hard to follow. Which is a shame considering the gothic menace and chills it has conjured up before this lapse into uncertainty and confusion.
Maria Bello is great as Adelle, capturing her sense of guilt and belief that her daughter isn’t gone with her moving delivery and intense determination. Sean Bean, though more than a little underused, at least gives his character a touching sensitivity and broken heart as we watch him mourn his daughter, but worry about the actions of his estranged wife. Maurice Roëves is interesting as the farm hand aware of the tragic and sinister history of the farm. While Sophie Stuckey is seen too infrequently as Sarah, Abigail Stone gives the role of the returning Ebrill a haunting menace and sadness.
A generally eerie and menacing horror film, only let down by the baffling ending, The Dark is a good enough movie to give you chills.