Grief, guilt, and broken families have been hot for the last several years. Many of these were written before the pandemic. Watching these films while locked inside with our families make the viewing experience even more…interesting. Movies like the incredibly bleak Sator or oddly heartfelt Relic showcase the terror of family bonds. The Dark And The Wicked by writer/director Brian Bertino is a masterclass in slow-burning dread. Gorgeously shot, it captures the ominous power of growing suspicion, resentment, and family secrets best left buried.
Louise, portrayed brilliantly by Marin Ireland and Michael, played by Michael Abbott Jr., who is set to appear in the upcoming Hell House, are siblings who have reluctantly returned to their family home to care for their dying father. They returned to help their mother, who pleads with them to leave. Just hours after their arrival commits suicide. The siblings have not been home in years, and as the days progress, it becomes apparent there is something terrible that has called the goat farm home for years.
Despite all the mounting evidence, Lousie and Michael try to convince each other there is nothing paranormal happening. A priest(Xander Berkeley) and a nurse(Lynn Andrews) both detail strange behavior from their parents. Their mother(Julie Oliver-Touchstone) talked to someone or something that no one else saw in the weeks leading up to her suicide. They find their mother’s diary, which describes her growing fear there was something evil in the house trying to take their father’s soul. It told her to kill herself. As more and more things happen, the siblings are forced to consider there is a demonic presence and only love can defeat it. The creepy ending leaves no doubt evil is contagious.
Is the Wicked entity a demon or a symbol of guilt?
The truly awful thing about The Dark And The Wicked is this film could easily be about abuse and generational pain. Louise and Michael haven’t been home in years. They are uncomfortable in the house. The siblings come home to help their mother, but they obviously are only there out of duty. They have no interest in reconnecting with their parents, only serving a purpose. Responsibility brings them home, not love. When the nurse tells them that only love can defeat evil, it is horribly ironic. Something happened in their childhood that made the siblings leave and never look back. Love left a long time ago.
It is not explained but heavily implied the father was never a nice man. The tiny bit of information we are given about him paints a picture of a hard, difficult man. He was demanding and unkind even to their mother. A priest who claims to be a family spiritual advisers blames Louise and Michael for not helping sooner. He tells them their mother wasn’t crazy. She saw the danger they were in.
It is entirely possible their mother warned them to leave because she believed they were in danger of being possessed by the demon too. Whether the devil came from Hell or deep-rooted guilt remains to be seen. Everyone has something to feel guilty about. Their mother’s guilt was no doubt linked to regret she wasn’t closer to her children and shame for some unseen behavior during their childhood. The siblings feel bad about abandoning their mother, and Michael regrets ignoring his wife so much. He also is ashamed of leaving Lousie behind.
Is the evil real?
There is a demon. That presence possibly lived in the father for decades and spoke to their mother, and it seems to possess whole portions of the town occasionally. Louise first sees the demon when her father surprises her in the shower. Both siblings think she is seeing things initially and reject the notion that there is a monster inside their father. Louise and Michael both continue to see and hear strange things, including phone calls from her dead mother. It should have been enough to make her them both run. The granddaughter of a family friend visits Louise near the end of the film, which is a manifestation of the demon. The demon attacks Louise and then vanishes, leaving her shaken.
In another instance, the demon possesses the nurse and causes her to stab her own eyes out and knock Louise out. The demon who lives in the father is not confined to the dying man. It can influence everyone around them and hurt even those who peripherally know the family. The demon also is not hampered by distance as Michael was tricked hours and miles away from the farm.
Whether it is a manifestation of all too human emotions or a demonic presence, something horrific exists, it has power. Regret and remorse are food for the demon. It took many forms, including Louise, Charlie’s granddaughter, and the Priest. It can reach across miles and is not deterred by death; in fact, it revels in torturing people until they kill themselves. Driving those who have just a seed of doubt are susceptible. That is why Charlie and the nurse became victims.
Charlie secretly harbored feelings for Louise, and the nurse was not as devout as she would like to be. In the final moments, Lousie watches her father die, and after passing, he sits up and grabs her. It’s possible that the demon was trapped in some way by their father, and the weaker he became, the more damage he could do. It’s also possible the demon is looking for a new host. Another body is more a comfort than a necessity for it.
What happens at the end of The Dark And The Wicked?
At the end of the film, Michael returns home only to find his wife and children dead. He kills himself, believing he had nothing to live for. Just before he dies, he realizes the demon has tricked him. He did not escape after all. Louise does not fare much better. After waking up from the nurse’s attack, Louise chooses to stay with her father until he takes his last breath. She considers leaving her father and running but changes her mind and stays with him until the end. As he took his last breath, she heard her dead mother singing from the other room. She turns and looks away from her father’s body, and he sits up and grabs her. She screams as the film cuts to black. The demon claimed them all and looked to be just getting started.
Louise tells her brother, “a soul needs love to keep it safe.” The siblings cared for each other, and Michael loved his family, but in the end, that wasn’t enough. Michael abandoned Louise for his family, who he had been neglecting. Louise tells her father she loves him, but her time away from home tells a different story. The Dark And The Wicked is about suffering and guilt. Demons don’t care who loves you, only if you regret more than you love. That is when he can move in.
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As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.