* out of ****
Most who see 2010’s “And Soon the Darkness” will not know that it’s a close remake of a 70’s film of the same name. This is only appropriate, given that the original film had vanished into obscurity almost instantly after it was allowed a release, and deservedly so. I saw the 1970 “And Soon the Darkness” not too long ago – and not because I heard of the remake first – yet I can’t quite remember a whole lot of it aside from the main points. Oh, well; that was all I needed to make some connections between the “original” and the remake. They have quite a bit in common; same basic plot and set-up, same genre, same intent, same twist, same quality. The only differences are the change of location (the original was set in France; this one takes place entirely in Argentina) and a little bit of nationality swapping amongst the film’s central characters (they were originally British; here they are 100 percent American).
If there’s one thing I hate more than a movie in which nothing happens; it’s a movie that thinks it has something going for it, yet it really doesn’t. Such was the case with the 1970 original; same goes for this unnecessary remake. The film is about a duet of hot American backpackers (Odette Yustman and Amber Heard) that does indeed stop by Argentina for a night. They embrace the freedom by visiting a local bar and enjoying a night of heavy drinking and for one of them at least, romance as well; meeting up once again in the morning to catch the 8 AM bus back home.
The alcohol comes with quite the kick; and causes the girls to sleep in just a tad too late. They miss their bus and are forced to stay in Argentina for at least a few more days. They decide to make the best of it with a little sun-bathing; which goes horribly wrong when they split up after a heated verbal exchange of unfriendly proportions, with one returning to the spot after apologizing, only to find the other has disappeared.
We know what has happened. We see the girl being dragged away by some long-haired man; presumably of considerable strength. But of course, the other girl does not know this; and that is why she is ignorant enough to ask the local police for assistance, only to get nothing in return. Instead, she is accompanied on her journey to find her friend by an odd but friendly man named Michael (Karl Urban), whose girlfriend went missing in these areas some time ago.
As you can see, “And Soon the Darkness” plays out like a thriller and therefore must be labeled as one; although upon having seen it, I can assure you that there isn’t a single thrilling or particularly suspenseful moment in it. Given that I was able to remember whatever I could from when I saw the original film, the outcomes were predictable; and it sure doesn’t help that the film is just so absolutely and utterly incompetent anyways. You don’t have to see the original for all the entertainment value of the remake to be drained directly from it; you just need to know what makes a good thriller and what doesn’t.
If you’re willing to sit through 90 minutes of stupid women and clueless men chattering away like it’s their business to do so; then “And Soon the Darkness” may be your cup of tea. Also, if you enjoy cheap endings and lame excuses for thrills, it might appeal to you just the same. But I know what I like; and I don’t like watching a movie where there are dozens of moments that occur every half-hour in which something intended to be ominous and atmospheric shows up, only to rear its ugly head and give us a damn good look at its unimpressive self. I also don’t like bad acting, uninspired direction, pitifully predictable plots, and absurdity that goes almost completely uncalled for. Some films are ridiculous, and they know it; this one acts as if it’s completely unaware, or perhaps it isn’t acting at all. Maybe it really, truly, honestly, from the bottom of its heart does not have a clue. Wouldn’t be much of a surprise to me.