- Director: Bryan Bertino
- Writer: Bryan Bertino
- Stars: Marin Ireland, Michael Abbott Jr., Xander Berkeley, Julie Oliver-Touchstone, Michael Zagst
Bryan Bertino’s latest film The Dark And The Wicked, playing as part of Fantasia 2020, is without a doubt one of the best horror films of the past five years. An exercise in dread (and scares) weaved into a story about grief, communication and guilt.
Siblings Lousie (Ireland) and Michael (Abbott Jr) come back to their family farm, as their father (Zagst) is dying – slowly and their mother is not coping with this situation. As the kids come back to see what they can do to help, it becomes apparent that their mother is struggling far more than first thought and that something is wrong with her as well. The whole farm seems cursed and there is something out there that is determined to get in.
From the get go, Bertino keeps you on edge. The film uses great sound design to keep you tense, then slowly builds on that tension and hits you with a visual that shocks. From there, the film slowly piles on the hopelessness. Both Louise and Michael are slowly watching their father die and their mother lose the plot and there is nothing they can do but watch. The siblings are relatively estranged too, they barely communicate so they can’t really tell each other what they are feeling (Bertino’s script has to be praised here for the natural dialogue).
As the siblings begin to realise they are up against something they don’t understand, the stakes and tension gets ratcheted up. Ireland and Abbott Jr sell the fear and confusion, with Ireland in particular really getting put through the (emotional) mincer.
This film sits thematically at least with Hereditary and the recent Relic, with family bonds playing central parts of the drama but The Dark And The Wicked is far scarier than both those two films. A sick in the pit of your stomach feeling, is evident earlier and the film carries it all the way through to the emotionally gutting ending. A film that leaves you reeling at times, this is Bertino’s most punishing film and bear in mind that this is from a filmmaker that has The Strangers in his filmography. His best film to date and the scariest horror film I’ve seen this year.
Played at Fantasia Film Festival 2020
Ryan Morrissey-Smith | Twitter: @TigersMS78