The Dark (April 3/06)
The Dark marks director John Fawcett's follow-up to 2000's Ginger Snaps, an overrated werewolf movie that was never quite able to find an appropriate balance between comedy and horror. Such problems are completely non-existent within The Dark, a creepy and often genuinely frightening piece of work.
After the tragic drowning of their daughter, Sarah (Sophie Stuckey), estranged married couple Adelle (Maria Bello) and James (Sean Bean) find themselves confronted with a mysterious young girl named Ebrill (Abigail Stone). Adelle eventually comes to the realization that Ebrill - who's actually been dead for 60 years - has crossed over from the other side, and that Sarah is trapped in some sort of purgatory.
Though the majority of the film isn't quite as gripping as its opening half hour - which revolves almost exclusively around the mystery of the small Welsh village where Sarah supposedly drowned - Fawcett does a nice job of building tension and establishing an atmosphere of dread. The exceedingly slow build effectively transforms these characters into more than just horror-flick stereotypes, something that's particularly true of Bello's Adelle - a figure that convincingly undergoes a 180-degree transformation throughout the film's running time.
With its similarities to various other scary movies, including The Wicker Man and especially The Ring, The Dark doesn't necessarily have a lot to offer in terms of plot twists - although there's quite a doozy contained within the third act (the silliness of this portion of the film is tempered by the effectively grim conclusion). Fawcett augments the storyline with a number of intriguing interludes, with a sequence involving a rampaging herd of sheep an obvious highlight.
It's that sort of inventiveness that - coupled with fantastic performances from Bello and Bean - elevates The Dark to more than just a run-of-the-mill horror movie, and presumably bodes well for Fawcett's filmmaking future within the genre.