Thursday, 26 May 2016



The biggest surprise of The Darkness isn't wondering whatever happened to Greg McLean: from the gruelling Wolf Creek and Rogue (an easy winner over Black Water in the battle between Australia's two mid-2000s giant crocodile movies) to an anonymous studio product that's been precision engineered and polished until the marketing executive can see his face in it. Nor is it wondering whatever happened to Kevin Bacon that he had to appear in this: at least has has genre form with the first Friday The 13th and Hollow Man. No, the real shock is just how thuddingly bland and generic it all is, starting with the baldly nondescript title that's only half a step up from Creepy or Horror Movie.

Returning from a holiday around the Grand Canyon Workaholic dad Peter (Kevin Bacon), ex-alcoholic mum Bronny (Radha Mitchell), bulimic daughter Stephanie (Lucy Fry) and autistic son Mikey (David Mamouz) start to experience increasingly frightening paranormal activity. Could it have anything to do with the five sacred rocks which Mikey found in a cave and which, according to legend, will allow five shapeshifting animal spirits from Native American folklore to gain a foothold on the Earth once more?

Given that we only had a remake of Poltergeist less than a year ago, it seems weird to be essentially watching it all over again, even when sprinkled with a dash of Insidious and Sinister (it's the young kid who's at the centre). Complete with an eccentric old lady medium who just stops short of the line "this house is clean", it's honestly a wonder that MGM haven't sicced their lawyers on to it. On a technical level the film is decently enough nailed together and it has a few nicely creepy moments, which is really the very least you should expect, but there is so little fresh meat on offer you wonder why anyone bothered. And you wonder why they thought the audience would either. Are we that dumb, or do they just believe we're that dumb?




It's that man again! Takashi Miike is the dictionary definition of the word "variable", ricocheting between taut, involving films like Audition and wild, unrestrained mayhem like Ichi The Killer. When he's good, he's very good, but when he's bad he's Gozu: he's really at his best when controlled (there's no room for insane levels of violence in a samurai movie like Hara-Kiri or 13 Assassins, and the formulaic supernatural J-Horror of One Missed Call doesn't sit well with the Daily Mail Checklist Of Filth from Visitor Q) and it's sad to report that after last year's Over Your Dead Body that he's now back to his usual bonkersness.

Yakuza Apocalypse does at least start out looking like it might deliver what's promised by the title: there's a good and socially conscious gang boss, his minions who keep forgetting to leave the civilians alone, and the new kid in the outfit. But then a couple of killers show up and kill the boss: not just killing him but actually ripping his head off his shoulders....okay, that's unusual but it is a Takashi Miike film so we'll go with it. Then the head comes to life and bites the new kid, revealing him to be a vampire who has now taken over the new kid to raise an army of the undead and take his revenge. And then a bloke in a football team's giant frog mascot costume turns up with phenomenal martial arts skills and the ability to telepathically freeze his opponents and that's the point at which I lost interest.

It's not just the lack of control and restraint that kills it stone dead, though. Unless you're the equivalent of a Coppola or a Scorsese or a Woo at the very peak of your craft, it's very difficult to make criminal gangs into interesting people that an audience is going to give a damn about, and Takashi Miike clearly has no interest in whether anyone cares about his characters. The female characters, what few there are, are largely sidelined as well, because Takashi Miike clearly has no interest in them either. Not that it matters very much once it turns into a vampire movie with a high-kicking nine-foot candlewick frog.