Dark Light – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: After her divorce, a woman takes her young daughter and moves into her old vacant family home in rural Mississippi. When strange things start happening and her daughter disappears, she is the local sheriff’s number one suspect. The woman fights to not only clear her name but also to find her daughter.

Is it any good?: In a word, no. Dark Light flatters to deceive. It is visually well made and edited but the acting is poor and the script absolutely wretched. A film that just gets worse over its runtime. It is bloody awful.

Spoiler territory: Annie Knox (Jessica Madsen) is looking for her daughter. She moves quietly around her home, shotgun at the ready with a flashlight attached to the barrel, shouting for her daughter Emily (Opal Littleton). Around the house, Annie hears noises and footsteps. Doors close without warning and she is anxious at every sound.

She sees Emily in the elevator and goes to grab her. Emily starts screaming as Annie scoops her up. Annie hears a noise behind her and puts her daughter down, turning and shooting without looking for the target. She sees her ex-husband, Paul (Ed Brody) lying on the floor. A still tense Annie turns back towards her daughter and raises the gun once more. She shoots.

Annie gets taken away by the police for shooting Paul. A wounded Paul wants to know where their daughter is. The police take Annie away. The story goes back to Annie and Emily moving into the old house. Annie tells her daughter that this was where she grew up. Emily sees the elevator and asks what it is. Annie tells her its an elevator but no longer works.

Emily asks if her dad is going to live with them. Annie tells her no but he will visit. Later that night, Annie hears noises and goes to check around the house. She finds the front door open and shuts it. She checks the gap under the basement door. Something moving spooks her and then the door opens behind her again.

Back in the present, sheriff Dickerson (Kristine Clifford) is questioning Annie about her missing child. Annie is perplexed as to why she is being held, saying she would never harm her daughter. The sheriff points out that having shot her ex-husband, they cannot be sure of that.

Before Emily’s disappearance, Paul had turned up at the house unannounced to see his daughter. Annie is not best pleased to see him but she reluctantly lets him into the house to see Emily. He comes into the house and Emily rushes off to go and get a toy she wants to show him. Annie and Paul have an awkward, uncomfortable conversation.

Later that evening, Annie and Emily play hide n’ seek in the foliage of fields around the house. As it is dark, both of them carry torches. Annie, having grown up in the area, quickly finds her daughter, shining the light on her playfully. They keep on playing. A bright light shines on Annie. She thinks it is Emily but when she tells her to stop shining the light she does not reply.

Annie realises it is not her daughter and searches frantically for her. She looks back to the house and sees Emily standing on the roof. She rushes back to the house. She calls the sheriff. The sheriff tells her that the lights she saw in the field were probably local kids. Annie is convinced that they were not random kids playing in the field.

Annie checks out what she saw online and sees a video of Walter Sims (Gerald Tyler) talking about a humanoid race living secretly amongst the populace. Annie takes his details off of the internet. Annie sees lights shining from outside and rushes to Emily’s bedroom. Emily is fine. Annie goes outside to check what the lights are. She sees multiple lights shining around the field. She looks back to the house and sees something approaching her daughter.

Annie runs back into the house. The figure has disappeared. Annie calls the sheriff again and tells her the story of what happened. The sheriff is sceptical. In the present, sheriff Dickerson is not believing Annie’s version of events. In the past, Paul and Annie have another conversation. She tries to tell him that something is not right in the house. Paul tells her that she should not have moved back into the house, especially with her fragile mental health. He threatens to take Emily away from her.

Annie gets a monitor so as she can see Emily at night. She is woken in the night by a scream and looks to the monitor. Emily is not in her bed. She rushes to her bedroom and finds her daughter standing by her door. She wants to sleep with her. Annie continues to hear noises and goes to check the house. She sees a figure walking around the house. Emily disappears again.

She contacts the sheriff. The sheriff almost runs over Emily as she heads towards the house. Emily says to Dickerson that she does not want to go home. Emily also has a bloody nose, something that had happened earlier In the day also. The sheriff warns Annie that she is going to report her to child services.

Back in the present, the sheriff asks Annie about her gun purchases the previous week. Annie tells her that she bought them for personal protection. Earlier that same night, Annie had seen an alien taking Emily and had shot at it as it took Emily into the elevator. The elevator had then gone down. She had hurried into the basement to try and catch it.

Annie relays the story to Dickerson. Dickerson tells her she is going to jail. Annie is put in a truck with a police officer and another prisoner. The truck has an accident on the way, the driver having to avoid a cow blocking the road on a very rainy night. The truck goes down a bank and flips over.

Annie regains consciousness and frees herself. Everybody else in the truck has died. The police find the truck. Annie returns to her house and cleans herself up. She decides to go and find Walter Sims. Sims invites her into his house and tells him about his ancient alien beings theory. He is worried that Annie found him through the internet.

Annie tells him what she saw. He tells her that they target children to harvest their inner light, their energy. Annie wants to kill it. Sims locks her in his house and goes to find the aliens, fascinated by them and not wanting her to kill them. Sims heads to her house. He quickly encounters one of the aliens.

It attacks him and Sims runs to his car. He is driving away and is attacked again in his car. He escapes his car and runs into a railway yard. He is caught by another one and killed. The police find his corpse. The police go to Sims house and see all his notes about the missing children. Annie manages to get out of Sims’ house.

Annie heads back to her own house to look for her daughter. She hides when Paul comes to the house. He goes into the lift and is attacked by one of the aliens. Annie goes to get in the lift to look for both Paul and their daughter. She goes to the basement stairs but is chased by one of the aliens. She gets away but as she is about to go back into the basement, she is stopped by Dickerson, who is pointing a gun at her.

Annie puts her gun down. Dickerson is killed by one of the aliens. Annie runs as the same alien comes after her. She repels it by attacking it with a lampshade pole, shocking it. It does not die. Annie heads to the basement. She finds Paul and wakes him from unconsciousness. They both go looking for Emily. They see the alien feeding on energy from Emily.

Paul causes a distraction so that Annie can grab their daughter. As mother and daughter try to escape, they see Paul get killed. Annie slows the alien down by shooting it and takes her daughter back to the house. She douses the house in petrol. The alien burst into the house and attacks her. She slows the alien once again by first tasering it then shooting it. She sets the house on fire.

Annie and Emily get into Paul’s car and drive away. Emily asks if the alien is dead and Annie tells her it is. In the fields around the home, the light that shines from the aliens’ heads lights up the night. The end.

Dark Light is utter garbage. Written and directed by Padraig Reynolds, it is a film that gets worse over its runtime with a haphazard story, undefined antagonist and the least subtle script this reviewer has ever suffered through, with every utterance exposition. Reynolds can certainly direct the visuals and the film flows relatively nicely but he should get someone else to write. The script is first-year scriptwriting student bad.

I am going to kindly believe that it was the script that contributed to the wholly wooden performances by the entire cast. Admittedly, they did not have much to work with, every character speaking in the same manner, pace and cadence. The central character had no compelling reason to stay in the freaky house but did anyway.

If she did, Reynolds did not put it in the script. Annie suffered from depression. How do I know this? Because Paul comes right out and says it. He does not allude to it or talk around it. He just says it. Her mum had depression and committed suicide. Guess how I know? Bloody Paul and his helpful exposition!

Sims talks some bollocks about ancient, advanced aliens and then decides to go and meet them, even though he knows that they basically eat children and have done for years. As soon as he finds himself in bother he runs like Usain Bolt. He was also supposedly worried about being found via the internet, even though he had, in the video he had produced talking about the aliens, asked people to contact him!

Reynolds also could not decide how he wanted the aliens to kill people with them slashing, frying and, quite randomly, biting the unfortunate Paul in the neck. The aliens snatch children but the sheriff had never before been told of disappearing children even though Sims, the kook, had hundreds of pictures of missing children on his wall. Annie, who had already been spooked by the old house, decides to take her daughter into a field, at night, to play hide n’ seek. It was as if she wanted to lose the damn child.

Dark Light – a title that makes very little sense – is a mishmash of ideas all poorly executed. Scoring a, I can only say, generous four point two on IMDB, Dark Light is a film to give a wide berth. Wretched.

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