Bryan Bertino, the writer-slash-director of such fantabulous fare as THE STRANGERS (and its sequel THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT, for which he wrote the screenplay) and the incomparable THE MONSTER, hits another one out of the park with his latest, THE DARK AND THE WICKED, even if the old flyball doesn’t sail quite as far out beyond the parking lot. The ending of this one left me a tad unsatisfied. I wanted more. I don’t know *specifically* what it was I wanted; I think maybe more of an explanation for why what was happening, was happening. But that could be what Bertino was going for, that there simply *is* no explanation. Still, the ending left me a tad—just a tad—underwhelmed.
Everything else, though—damn. This one is super effective. The actors don’t look or sound like actors. They look and sound like people you’d expect to meet down at the nearest Dollar General on any given weekend. Their Southern/Texan accents are flawless and they virtually disappear into their characters. This sense of realism allows for the film’s atmosphere to really seep into your psyche and work its magic.
You never see the monster in this one. I mention this because that can annoy some viewers. “The Presence”, as we’ll call it, never appears onscreen, but its “presence” is felt everywhere, from the distant howling of wolves to the grisly mess it makes of a herd of goats to the mind games it plays with the two lead characters. Truthfully it doesn’t need to be shown, not in this case. The movie works better without it. Granted you never *needed* to see the monster in NIGHT OF THE DEMON either, and the movie still worked just fine after they added it, so they could have chosen to give us a glimpse of the Presence and the film still would have floated. But whatever. It’s a great effort, one way or the other.