Welcome to the next double feature with a horror double with 2018’s Down A Dark Hall and 2020’s The Dark and the Wicked! Let’s check it out!
Down A Dark Hall (2018)
Director: Rodrigo Cortés
Cast: AnnaSophia Robb, Uma Thurman, Isabelle Fuhrman, Victoria Moroles, Noah Silver, Taylor Russell, Rosie Day, Rebecca Front, Jodhi May, Pip Torrens, Kirsty Mitchell, Jim Sturgeon
A troubled teen named Kit Gordy is forced to join the exclusive Blackwood Boarding School, just to find herself trapped by dark forces around its mysterious headmistress, Madame Duret. – IMDB
As I look at Down The Dark Hall, the general outline reminds me of Paradise Hills (review), a movie that I think is a hidden gem as it also has the parallels of young girls in one closed setting under surveillance with a headmistress that has their own scheme. Of course, this twist is different and the boarding school is this mansion setting works well since the mysteries and dark hallways definitely meet the expectations of the title of the film. Down A Dark Hall is considered a horror thriller and in some ways, the premise does work but the execution misses a little.
What works here is the atmosphere: dark and mysterious. Some shots are so dark and yet it teases a little of what could be hidden in this darkness. At the same time, the Boarding School is very basic so a lot of dim lighting is set by this environment. Adding to that is the idea that each of the girls fall into a different obsession with a subject which makes their characters all change in a suspenseful way. This really counting on which actress manages to portray it well. Pairing them with the dynamic of Uma Thurman’s headmistress as Madame Duret which is probably the better part of the movie as a whole.
Aside from Uma Thurman, the cast also include AnnaSophia Robb which I had previously seen in some Disney movies (along with The Reaping and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and do remember her for her child roles so its nice to see her here which she does a decent enough job. Just like seeing Isabelle Fuhrman who I had previously seen in Orphan and I kind of did like her role here as well. The other cast members while having some interesting characters felt like it all felt a little oddly paced making some of their roles also feel a little unbalanced in execution.
Overall, Down The Dark Hall is a horror fantasy film which definitely embraces its title and has a decent twist to it. There are some creepy moments but nothing way too scary other than the dark setting that probably helps with creating the atmosphere and mystery. While some characters were done well, there is some odd execution choices as well as how a lot of the characters that play the boarding school staff feels so strange that its obvious that something’s not right.
The Dark and the Wicked (2020)
Director (and writer): Bryan Bertino
Cast: Marin Ireland, Michael Abbott Jr., Julie Oliver-Touchstone, Lynn Andrews, Tom Nowicki, Michael Zagst, Xander Berkeley, Charles Jonathan Trott, Ella Ballentine
On a secluded farm in a nondescript rural town, a man is slowly dying. His family gathers to mourn, and soon a darkness grows, marked by waking nightmares and a growing sense that something evil is taking over the family. – IMDB
The Dark and The Wicked is a slow-burn horror film set in the isolated rural farm where siblings return to visit their parents. The movie starts off right away setting up the unknown horror before the siblings arrive and build upon that throughout as most of the horror is in the unknown and what happens off screen. As with many slow-burn horror, a lot of the movie is based on the atmosphere and tension as well as the subtle sort of horror. There is a vagueness to the whole situation as a lot of it is rather quiet as a whole and in the moments as different situations occur to each of the characters in the story. Its also where it will draw the differences of those who will appreciate it for that or find it more boring.
Its hard to dive too deep into The Dark and The Wicked as a lot of it is revolving about the subtlety and the mystery that seems to be going on this home. Is it supernatural or evil or something else? The unknown makes up the horror of the film as a whole plus some of the horror effects and the characters as they get pulled into whatever “evil” seems to be hanging over this home. With that said, the atmosphere is on point especially with the sound design and playing with the quiet moments, there’s a good balance of using that to build horror as well as the setting itself.
The characters also play a part here. There is a fairly small cast as a whole but they all do a decent job as well. The characters also have a rather subtle change and development throughout as the situation changes and they get pulled into figuring out what is going on. Between the parents, the visiting siblings as well as the nurse and neighbors, the story does manage to find a way to make this uneasy whether in dialogue and such. There are some moments where its a little over but most of it does manage to get under the skin.
Overall, The Dark and The Wicked is a well-executed slow-burn indie horror film. The setting, the characters and the atmosphere combined together creates a good balance to bring out the creepy unknown horror vibe.