Horror movies have always been an effective vehicle for exploring social and psychological issues. Bryan Bertino’s The Dark and the Wicked is no exception to this. While The Dark and the Wicked delivers on scares and body horror, it also tells the story of a brother and sister who have returned home to say good-bye to their father. The Dark and the Wicked is an eerie film that uses nightmarish imagery and strong performances to delve into family secrets and remorse.
The Dark and the Wicked was filmed at Bertino’s family farm. The film’s setting never strays from the rural and remote setting. Making the most of the Texas countryside, the film’s use of isolation and haunting nature sounds softly permeate the atmosphere. Michael and Louise return home to say good-bye to their dying father and are greeted by their mother who repeatedly tells them to go home. It seems like she may be upset by their absence, but it is soon revealed she is trying to protect them from a malevolent force that stalks the farm.
While the film is mostly quiet, the wind whistling and distant howling paired with an ominous score contribute to the Southern Gothic tone of the film. These ambient sounds seem to create lulls where suspense is created and is broken with great effect when the soundtrack pitches or a character speaks.
The character of the mother, played by Julie Oliver, is the most vocal in the beginning. She is overwhelmed as she is the main caretaker for her dying husband. Once Michael and Louise arrive they feel obligated to stay and take care of family matters. Michael (Michael Abbott Jr) and Louise (Marin Ireland) feel the strains of guilt for having left their mother alone with their sick father and are doing their best to fulfill their duties as children. As they stay on, the losses begin to pile up along with mysterious and inexplicable circumstances. The question that looms is if whether they are grieving or haunted?
Abbott and Ireland give great performances as Michael and Louise are forced to face otherworldly terrors. Bertino’s minimal use of lighting also provides a perfect backdrop to the supernatural elements that surface in the film. The gore and jump scares incorporated into the film punctuate the emotional moments adding to the psychological torment.
The Dark and the Wicked is a slow burn, but it is a compelling look at grief and familial duty through the horror lens. Creepy and unsettling, the scenery and tension will draw you in.
The Dark and the Wicked premieres on Shudder on February 25th.
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