In DARKNESS RISING, Madison (Tara Holt) returns to her childhood home with her longtime friend Izzy (Katrina Law) and her fiance Jake (Bryce Johnson) in an attempt to make peace with a traumatic event that has haunted her into adulthood. When she was a child, her mother seemingly went crazy, killing her younger sister and almost murdering Madison as well. Madison has returned to the house, abandoned since that horrific day, to try to find some sort of understanding of the events and to move on. The house seems to have other designs, as it begins exerting its influence over the group from the moment they step through the door. Mysterious figures, ghostly visions and an overwhelming presence keeps them from leaving the house, and escape becomes more and more difficult as it becomes less clear just where the line between reality and a dark fantasy lies.
This film is a frustrating watch that plays with a lot of interesting ideas, but never manages to fully zero in on any one of them. The nature of the haunted house, the entity that lies within its walls, and the truth of Madison’s past all seem to fight for the spotlight and the plot winds up being unnecessarily burdened and bloated. Rather than escalating story developments that build on one another, we seem to have a new and unexpected plot turn come out of left field every few minutes and reset the scene. It feels like we are constantly reshaping the story to allow for the addition of a new thread without finding an elegant place to put it.
Though some of these ideas are interesting and worth exploring, it feels as though very few choices were made in the scripting process. There are so many ideas in the mix, and more often than not, they are half formed and then abandoned for a different concept. Heavy on awkward exposition and lacking a cohesive flow, the story is clunky and never quite reaches a steady pace.
Director Austin Reading manages to get off a few effectively creepy shots, but they’re ultimately not enough to save the film from itself. I would be interested to see what he can do with a bigger budget and a tighter script.
On the plus side, Ted Raimi is in it. The downside is, he’s only around for a moment, and even then, I’m not entirely sure why.
DARKNESS RISING is a very mixed bag of good intentions, potentially interesting ideas and poor execution.