From the Darkness springs oppression. Suffocating paranoid, and resolutely honest, Darkness is a ferocious debut for Director Emmanuel Rossi.
Like the brilliant but hard to watch Dogtooth, Darkness(Buio) is a study in abuse and control. Manipulation and fear are the weapons used against three young girls, each struggling with their own power and place in the world. Compellingly acted and impeccably rendered Darkness is a must-see part of Nightstream 2020. It premieres today.
Three girls are growing up in a hyper-controlled environment of their father’s making. They can’t go outside because of some undefined apocalyptic event that has left the world ruined and unsafe for women. According to their father, their mother tried to go out and died for her efforts. Only their father can care for them as he leaves each day to fight for their food and survival. As time passes, however, the girls begin to question their father’s assertations. As much a coming of age story as the horror of child abuse, Darkness turns on its head halfway through.
Darkness often finds itself dangling perilously over the abyss of child torture porn. The abuse is shown in glances, and desperate prayer between bouts of too close hugs and sexual code speak. The family is devoutly religious at the father’s suggestion. No doubt, this is some guilt-ridden attempt to control his unhealthy urges while simultaneously justifying them. That is the brio of Emmanuel Rossi’s film. The duality, however oddly juxtaposed and horrific, is bravely shown. The tender and bizarre fish out of water story that is the second act is equally incongruous. Sometimes grotesque, other times disturbingly funny, but always oppressive and uncomfortable, Darkness is the shadow in the dark. Just when you think things can not get any darker, they impossibly do. Rossi’s choices maintain balance and tension.
Father never wavers from his intricately conceived lie. Regardless of the fantastic nature of his lies, or the increasingly suspicious ideas of his daughters, he holds fast to the world he has built. He is an all-consuming iron fist whether he controls them through money and perceived protection or outright gaslighting. Incredibly subtle performances by Father(Valerio Binasco) and Stella(Denise Tantucci) show the complexity of abuse and the power of our minds to protect us and break free. Father isn’t as simple as a mustache-twirling bad guy. His evil is done in the literal dark through abject fear, false narratives, and coded messaging. These girls are indoctrinated to believe as he wants them too. In the end, Stella, is forced to face the truth and be brave for herself and her sisters.
Painful and poignant, Darkness is almost two movies in one that each compliment the other without overstepping. In large part, that is due to director Emmanuela Rossi’s razor-sharp decisions. Every look, bit of violence, and world-building detail is meticulously thought out and savagely adhered to. She has a singular vision for the film, and it is defiantly individual. Like it, hate it, love it, it is no matter to her.
This is not a complaint, rather a compliment as that stubborn force of nature invades the film and, in some ways, the viewer leaving behind a vague sense of unease. It’s as if the very walls of the post-apocalyptic world the girls find themselves in begin tainting your own home. Layers of filth, imagined and real, compete for placement in our homes and our hearts. I found myself turning on an extra light for fear the dark would consume me.
Darkness is an unflinching grasping, clawing reality. Not even the final shot gives solace. Intense and quietly furious, Darkness is an ugly truth that is revealed in the light. Follow all our Nightstream coverage here.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.