Movie Review: DARKNESS RISING (2017)

DARKNESS RISING is a pure example of a film with a lot of room for potential but never fully capitalizes on it, instead just tossing around fun ideas hoping something sticks, but moving on before any chance of seeing if it does.

The film is based around a pretty simple concept that is laid out early on but pieces of the puzzle continue to lay themselves down as it continues. Madison, played by Tara Holt, was nearly murdered by her own mother as a child and before the house can be demolished, she takes her boyfriend and cousin with her to the site of the crime to try and get some closure. As she searches the house for any clues as to what drove her mother to kill her younger sibling and almost murder her, it becomes clear that something darker has an influence on the families that inhabit the home.

DARKNESS RISING has a pretty high quality and a lot of nearly-famous talent. Tara Holt has had a long run on premier television shows, such as “Ballers” and “Californication.” Her boyfriend Jake is played by Bryce Johnson who had a long run on “Pretty Little Liars” and her cousin Izzy carries the bulk of the quality acting from fan favorite Katrina Law, who plays Nyssa Al Ghul on “Arrow”. These three are essentially the only characters, although we get an inconsequential but always fun cameo from Ted Raimi, and although Law rises above both of her peers, Holt and Johnson do bring along the stigma of a television movie and feel throughout much of the movie.

Throughout, it bounces around from genre to genre and does some fun things with it. Possession, ghost stories, demons, creepy kids. They’re all brought up. One gouge-eyed demon in particular is intensely creepy but appears only once and in a capacity that almost ruins the thrill of her appearance. A few of the jump scares are creepy but they never manage to land. The movie composes itself decently as a run-of-the-mill haunted house flick but manages to throw in a giant detractor. It may seem a little wonky and out of place, and it is, but about halfway through the movie the viewer is made privy to the fact than an amorphous haunted CG force field blocks the three leads from any sort of external help. It’s a strange plot twist that’s never fully explored.

Vikram Weet and Austin Reading, the writer and director respectively, are both relatively new to the game. Vikram has spent the bulk of his career scripting reality television and Austin Reading has spent the majority of his directing it, with a few interspersed forays on short lived MTV horror comedy “Death Valley”. Both do just enough to make the movie watchable but nothing extraordinary.

Unfortunately, that’s where DARKNESS RISING ultimately ends up: just watchable. It shows glimmers of hope and has a scare or two, as well as a few solid under explored concepts, but will end up being a movie that you won’t remember you watched until someone someday says “Oh, what about this one? Have you seen DARKNESS RISING?” Then you’ll not and politely request a pass.

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