The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Friday, March 9, 2012

And Soon the Darkness (2010)

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This is yet another of the Stars Play 11. There were a few reasons why I wanted to catch this one before it got the dump: I liked Amber Heard in both The Ward and The Informers, and wanted to see her here; I love Karl Urban, and couldn't let an opportunity to get him on the DTVC go by the boards; and finally, as I'm sure you know, I'm a sucker for mountain scenery, and where better to get it than Argentina? (Also, this will be another one where I discuss the ending, so heavy spoiler alert when I get there in the seventh paragraph.)

And Soon the Darkness is a remake of a film from 1970 of the same name. Here we have two girls, Amber Heard and Odette Yustman, finishing their bicycling trip in a small town in Argentina, and ready to catch a flight home, which they plan on doing the next morning, as long as they can catch the bus out of town. But Yustman's partying the night before causes the girls to oversleep and miss their bus, meaning they're forced to spend one more night. This is too much, and the girls are getting in each other's nerves, so they split up, only to have Heard come back to the rendezvous point and find Odette gone. Now it's a frantic struggle to find out what happened to her, before the darkness sets in and she's gone forever.

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For the most part I enjoyed this. It was kind of silly and paint-by-numbers in some of the elements-- like how the girls have complete make-up kits in their tiny traveling backpacks--, but for the most part it did it's job and kept me sufficiently tense and interested. I liked Heard and Urban, Yustman wasn't in it as much, but she worked too. There was also that excellent mountain scenery, plus some excellent scenery in the form of Heard and Yustman-- unfortunately Urban remains well clothed throughout the film, so this isn't an equal opportunity ogler--, and some really nice sets, especially near the end when they were in an abandoned village. What turned me off is what often turns me off in these types of pictures: the ending ends up all over the place. I don't want to give it away too much before I get to the second to last paragraph, but we were kind of reaching a sufficient climax, and I noticed we still had a fair amount of film left, and sure enough, it went off the rails. I don't know if the original did the same thing, and they wanted to be faithful to that, but either way, it was a little much. All in all, not bad, but nothing special.

The eye candy in this was pretty hardcore. That scene where Heard and Yustman are sunning themselves in their bikinis almost hurt they looked so good. (They also made sure there was a close-up from behind of Yustman taking off her shorts over her bikini bottom, just to get in that gratuitous butt shot.) I don't know which I would've preferred, to have them be realistic looking and haggard after a long bike tour, with very little make-up, or to go the traditional Hollywood route like they did, where the girls stuffed professional make-up artists into their small backpacks. I imagine I know which one the girls' agents preferred, and that's why we got the ones we got; but I also think the film makers wanted the image of the girls as these American princesses that are brought into sudden contact with the harsh realities of the developing world, especially because, as they go through their ordeal, they end up looking much more haggard. I think that adds to our fear too as Westerners seeing them in a foreign place.

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Love Karl Urban. Excited to finally get a chance to see him on here too. He plays a mysterious Westerner in the same town as the girls. Is he their ally or a co-conspirator? Whatever he is, he's awesome, I just wish there was more of him. You can never have enough Karl Urban. I can't wait until the new Chronicles of Riddick and Star Trek movies come out so we can see him in those again. I was so stoked to see him as Bones, playing one of my favorite Star Trek characters. He would've made DeForest Kelley proud.

One thing they touch on slightly is the brazenness of baddies here to kidnap an American girl. I don't say that to be jingoistic or Toby Keith "we'll put a boot in your ass" patriotic, I say it because the last thing I'd want to do is kidnap an American pretty white girl and deal with that eventual publicity. I don't assume that all Argentinians would be familiar with the American penchant to be captivated by the trials and tribulations of pretty white girls, but any that engage in a kidnapping ring must have some clue who Natalee Holloway is. I can't think of anything that would've bumped Casey Anthony off the frontlines like a story about two girls gone missing in Argentina. Next thing you know, your town is crawling with American press, then American PIs and investigative journalists trying to make a name for themselves-- come to think of it, this might have made a better ending to the movie.

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SPOILER ALERT!!!! SPOILER ALERT!!!! SPOILER ALERT!!!! SPOILER ALERT!!!!
Like the film Trap I reviewed a couple weeks ago, this film killed off the kidnapped girl, in this case right after she was rescued. And they did it classic cop out style too: by her falling on the ground and hitting her head. We go through 45 minutes of tension and wondering if Heard will save her friend, and when she actually does, we're rewarded with that? It just makes me wonder what I'm investing my energy in. It only gets worse from there, as the film proceeds to fall off the rails. The local sheriff is in on it, Karl Urban is killed off, and Heard is captured. We then get a final fifteen minutes of escapes and recaptures and cat and mouse games in multiple settings, none as good as the abandoned village I thought the movie was going to end in. If you want my take, I think the whole having the cop be a baddie was too much. We had enough by getting the girls out of the abandoned broken down hotel and to Urban and the cop, why tack on 15 minutes just to tack it on? If it's a length issue, just add an epilogue and slow down the credits. Sometimes simple is better.
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You could either rent this one on DVD, or keep an eye for it on cable. I'd do the latter if I were you, just because this is good, but not spectacular. I watched it late at night when it was still on Watch Instantly, so a late night cable cure for insomnia might be the way to go. (Also, you noticed I had to include those mountains. I couldn't help myself.)

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1391034/

6 comments:

  1. PLEASE watch the original. I don't think this remake was awful, but it's a paint-by-numbers pretty people in peril quickie that doesn't do its source material ANY justice. The '70 film has a wonderful sense of slow burning dread about it that makes its final act (which is, don't worry, significantly different from the remake) truly scary. Great atmoshere, great performance by Pamela Franklin. I think it's even on Instant WAtch so hop to it!

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    1. How did I write this review without first checking to see if the original was on Watch Instantly? Not doing my due diligence. I will definitely have to check it out now, I have no excuses.

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  2. Urban sounds awesome in this. Can't wait to see him as Judge Dredd soon. Too bad this seems to be a pretty standard thriller, I'm sure Urban's presence automatically makes it better than it really is.

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  3. Karl Urban is good, and so are the girls; really, up until the last fifteen minutes or so, this is pretty enjoyable, so if you're an Urban fan like me, I think that might be enough for you (plus, I see they just re-added it on Watch Instantly).

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  4. Urban's a kick ass guy, you had me at Yustman though. I'll be watching this one shortly, thanks for the review.

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  5. No problem, and you should be pleased with both.

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