When a film’s mounting tension and narrative trajectory are dependant on a particular circumstance inherent only to the protagonist, then every development should involve that circumstance to varying degrees. However, after a significant quirk is established and is continuously referenced to be made a major focus for the audience, and it quickly mutates away from a plot mechanic into a cheap gimmick, then we’ve got a problem. This battle waged devastatingly inside me as I took in Johnny Mitchell’s debut feature film Blindsided (aka Darker Than Night), and I cannot say I came out the other side unscathed. A premise with several promising character dynamics and thematic tools quickly devolves into a toothless thriller that agitates more than anything else.
“Sloan Carter is making the best of her recent blindness, going about her college life as normally as possible.”
Sloan Carter (Bea Santos) is making the best of her recent blindness, going about her college life as normally as possible. Though, a weekend away from it all with her childhood friends Toby (Erik Knudsen) and Mika (Melinda Shankar) seems to be the right excuse to take a moment to breathe. Her father (Paul Popowich), a behavior analysis doctor, leaves the trio to their own devices, notifying them that an old friend of his would be stopping by for the night. Sloan and the others are soon joined by Tom (Atticus Mitchell), with assurances that he’ll be gone in the morning. This quiet weekend, with some requisite intimate drama between the jilted and jealous Toby and Mika, soon is interrupted by an anonymous cackling woman who attacks, traps, and torments the friends throughout the night.
While the cold opening of a faceless pursuit in the woods is a fairly effective, albeit expected introduction (and very Surviving the Game, 1994), it quickly plummets off a sheer cliff. David Mitchell’s editing has such a loose sense of timing, often employing fade-cuts or aerial landscape photography in order to bridge scenes, with most of them being either awkward at best and downright nonsensical at worst. This, however, seems to be at large fault with the actual screenplay by Johnny Mitchell, Brandon Tataryn, and Brad Wetherly – there are numerous repeated scenes and scares, none of which expand upon the context, further define the characters, or push forward the narrative. While it is obvious what the filmmakers wanted to make and what trump cards they wished to employ, I mostly know that because the characters exposit for nearly two-thirds of all existing dialogue and the visual allusions to what is coming are about as subtle as a knife in the eye.