[Fantasia 2020] “The Dark and the Wicked” review

The imminent death of a parent is never easy for the rest of the family. Things get much more difficult when an evil entity joins the macabre atmosphere. Bryan Bertino, director of the 2008 hit “The Strangers”, is back with “The Dark and the Wicked” which made its international premiere at Fantasia Festival’s online edition. Strap in, ‘cause you’re in for a ride.

Out on a very secluded farm, adult siblings Louise (Marin Ireland; “Hell or High Water” and the “Homeland” series) and Michael (Michael Abbott Jr.; “The Death of Dick Long” and “Mud”) are taking care of their ailing father as he is slowly dying. Strange events are occurring in and around the farmhouse. At first, they seem like little malfunctions or coincidences, but things get nightmarish when they both start seeing, hearing, and feeling things. Something evil has set its grasp onto the home. Something wicked has overtaken the farm. The brother and sister duo are in for a hellacious few days.

Bryan Bertino does not hold back in his latest film; the fourth feature film that he’s directed in his career. The plot is incredibly well put-together and provides lots of creepy, visual scares in addition to some heart-wrenching moments. A dark and sober film altogether; it will grab you by the back of the neck right from its opening scene, drag you around and force you to view its horrors, only to tear out your heart by the time the end credits roll up the screen. What’s appealing for the audience’s entertainment factor is that there are no lulls throughout the storyline; there are constantly new, and various frights stalking the film at every corner. Bertino’s attention to detail and subtlety is also impressive and appreciated. Whether it’s images that last only half a second, a sinister audio distortion of mundane conversations on television, or a figure standing faintly in the background, there are numerous horror elements present throughout the film that will momentarily terrorize you and make you think: “Wait a minute… did that just happen or did I imagine it?” Add to that an unsettling soundtrack composed by Tom Schraeder made up of various ways to use a violin, each more unnerving than the previous, and you’ve got a lugubrious mixture, indeed.

Marin Ireland and Michael Abbott Jr. are fantastic in the lead roles. Both are visibly shaken and distraught by the human tragedies occurring in addition to the soul-shattering, evil events squeezing the life out of them. While both seem to shake it off at first as hallucinations seemingly due to trauma, they can’t deny what they are witnessing as the tale rolls on. As a bonus, we obtain the always-excellent Xander Berkeley (“Candyman”, “The Walking Dead” series, and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”) as a suspicious and dark priest.

With an ending that will crush you and shake to your core, reminiscing the devastation felt in 2007’s “The Mist”, “The Dark and the Wicked” is a must-see film for all horror fans, setting itself as a top film of this year’s Fantasia Festival and even one of the top horror films of 2020, altogether. It deserves a successful score of 8/10.

Article written by SIMON ROTHER

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