Studio Canal/Anchor Bay Entertainment
Directed by Marcos Efron
Produced by Chris Clark, Lizzie Friedman, Karen Lauder and Deborah Marcus
Screenplay by Jennifer Derwingson and Marcos Efron
Based on the 1970 motion picture “And Soon The Darkness”
In the first thirty seconds of the 2010 remake of AND SOON THE DARKNESS we see a bound, near naked woman doused with water and then whipped with a live electrical wire until she collapses into unconsciousness. That told me right there that the writers and the director of this remake were going to throw out everything that the writers and director of the original had done to make their movie unusual, unique and suspenseful.
This version of AND SOON THE DARKNESS follows the basic plot of the original, transferring the setting from rural France to rural Argentina and making the girls American instead of English. Stephanie (Amber Heard) and Elle (Odette Yustman) are part of a bike tour of that country. They decide to split off from the group and go their own way for a bit, intending to catch a bus the next day and rejoin the group. They stay the night at a hotel where Elle persuades Stephanie to come with her to hang out at the local bar. Stephanie’s promiscuous behavior gets her the wrong kind of attention and she’s rescued by Michael (Karl Urban) another American staying at the hotel.
The next day, while biking, Elle wants to stop by a riverbank and sunbathe. Stephanie reluctantly agrees. After a couple of hours, she’s ready to go but Elle still wants to hang out there. This leads to an argument and Stephanie angrily rides off, leaving Elle alone. After she cools off a bit, she returns to the riverbank to find Elle gone, only her cell phone still on the ground where she had been sunbathing.
Now, unlike the original where we never learn the fate of the kidnapped girl until the last ten minutes of the movie, the remake has no problem letting us know that Elle has been kidnapped by the guy she was foolin’ around with in the bar last night. He’s the muscle of a gang who snatches girls and sells them across the river to a white slavery ring in Paraguay.
Stephanie frantically tries to get help from the local police chief, Calvo (Cesar Vianco) who poo-poohs away Stephanie’s urgent pleas for him to form a search party. “A search party?” Calvo says with a chuckle. “Where do you think you are? America?”
Stephanie finally gets help from (surprise, surprise, surprise) Michael who has been in Argentina for six months looking for his girlfriend who also disappeared. Together they decide to track down Elle themselves and maybe find Michael’s girlfriend as well.
Like I said earlier, everything that made the first movie unique has been ruthlessly stripped away to leave only a standard middle of the road thriller than doesn’t thrill at all. The way this movie unfolds and the way the story is told in such a blatant fashion I can easily imagine a group of suburban white families pooling their money together to finance this movie for the sole purpose of showing it to their daughters: “See? See? This is what happens when you go to foreign countries, get drunk and fool around with boys what don’t speak English!”
That nasty subtext is very strong in the movie and I also didn’t like how the script goes out of its way to depict Elle’s carefree indulgence in drinking and promiscuity as justification for what happens to her. And unlike the original, many of the locals speak English. Part of what added to the feeling of paranoia and isolation in the original was that none of the locals spoke any English.
Karl Urban does his best with what he’s given and like the professional he is, he comes out of this movie with the acting honors. Karl Urban is on my list of actors who even if they’re trapped in a really shitty movie more than pulls his weight and delivers a good performance and he does so here. And I’m glad that I saw Amber Heard in “Drive Angry” before seeing this movie as I might well have passed up watching that highly superior movie if I had watched AND SOON THE DARKNESS first. If you want to see Amber Heard in a really good movie, go watch “Drive Angry” and leave the remake of AND SOON THE DARKNESS alone. It’s a totally unnecessary remake that does not entertain one little bit. Go watch the 1970 original if you want to see a really good thriller.