Darkness, the brainchild of writer-director Emanuela Rossi and co-writer Claudio Corbucci, asks an insidiously clever question: what if the parent you are utterly reliant on for all your food and shelter isn’t a trustworthy person? This is the thought that will prick and tickle your mind as you watch this dramatic mystery.
A solar flare has knocked out civilization, and people murder each other to acquire food. Good girls must stay home, insists Stella’s (Denise Tantucci) Father (Valerio Belasco). Indeed, we watch Stella and her sister pretend to eat at a café. Food is scarce, but you can always pretend to conjure up lasagna, chicken with peppers, and Coke. Throughout the vignettes of Stella’s daily life as a shut-in, we will see moments of tenderness. Father will dance with each girl as they come of age, so they’ll be practiced for when civilization returns. Every so often, they get an “Air Day,” wherein the windows are unbolted, and natural light and air are brought into the house.
Mind you, Stella and her siblings are not permitted to leave the house. Father has convinced them they must wear special dark obscurant glasses and gas masks when the light is rolling in because the environment is toxic. Perceptive readers will see where this ultimately is going to go, story-wise. Events come to a head when Father informs Stella he no longer wants to see her and wants her out of the house. This allegedly tender, loving man will then vanish while on a bender into a post-apocalyptic sun-scorched world. Clearly, something odd is afoot.
“…they must wear special dark obscurant glasses and gas masks when the light is rolling in…”
The balance of Darkness focuses on Stella’s experiences outside the claustrophobic and controlling sphere of her father’s influence. I shall leave the intrigued to watch that and discover for themselves the punchlines Rossi has been working towards in her first feature. A seasoned unit and television director, the filmmaker has some high-concept conceits she has clearly been toying with for some time and has chosen to use them here. I liked the thrust of Rossi and Corbucci’s narrative.
While the storytelling feels a little rough, and in some parts, uncertain how best to proceed, the movie has convinced me this filmmaker is working towards a really great genre offering one day. Perhaps she will one day join the ranks of Argento and fashion a dark fantasy that will force people to stay awake at night. Alas, this is not that title. What it is, though, is a first draft of what such a movie could conceptually look like.
The framework for a great story is present. The acting is nearly there. The directing is close to great. All Rossi needs is to keep at it. One day she will revive Italian horror as a time-honored genre of cinema. I look forward to that. Darkness is a neat picture that conveys the great promise of the filmmaker. If you are interested in seeing a person develop from the very beginning, seek this flick out. This woman is going places; dark, surreal places.
"…will revive Italian horror as a time-honored genre..."