Written by Vikram Weet and directed by Austin Reading, Darkness Rising hits quite a few of the usual haunted house/evil spirit tropes starting pretty early with the film. The script and direction take these and use them as is fairly usually done, not exactly all that originally. The film uses also quite a few jump scares to spice things up, but most of them will be predictable to most seasoned horror fans. That being said, some of them work and so does part of the story. The characters are not super developed as they are introduced, they do become more so as the film advances, which attempts to make the viewer care about them. However, in this viewer’s case, it was a bit of a too little too late as they were just kind of there and fodder for the evil. This is not the cast fault, as it is how the film is written and built.
The cast is rather small, led by Tara Holt as Madison with assists from Katrina Law as Izzy and Bryce Johnson as Jake, they go through the house and its evils, trying to survive and give their characters a bit of realism and life. They do decent enough jobs, but these performances could have used a little something more. Giving a very good performance as he usually does is Ted Raimi in a very small part that adds a lot to the interest but not really to the story which is really a shame. His part feels a bit tacked on as he does not match tonally and stylistically with the rest of the film.
The special make-up effects and visual effects do look good, adding some creep and grossness to the film in key scenes. The evilness does get shown through the use of schlera contact lenses which give full white or full black eyes to characters when they are affected which has sadly become rather cliché. The rest of the effects which will not get spoiled here do look good and show talent form the crew of artists who created them. These effects pair well with the darkness throughout the film and with how the cinematography by Adam Biggs makes the house look. He takes a basic creepy house and elevates it to a house with a lot of scary potential, which gets a bit squandered during the film’s scenes that were supposed to be scary and make the hair stand on the back of the viewer’s neck. The way he shoots scenes shows that he know how to frame a creepy house and add to the feeling of a film with simple images.
In a sub-genre with tons of outings annually, making a film that is actually scary is a hard task. Darkness Rising has a few good ideas, some original ones even, but it’s not scary and fizzles fairly quickly once it does ramp up. The film sets-up a few good sequences that are creepy, but doesn’t follow through with them or if it does, it barely led to a big scare. It’s unfortunately a lot of screaming for very few scares and a few ick-inducing moments that do work. The story and scares do ramp up near the end, but it’s not quite enough to make it great and too little too late unfortunately.
Comes to select theaters, on VOD, and digital platforms on Friday June 30th.