And Soon the Darkness, the most generic thriller you can probably think of, has an attractive enough cast to make it watchable. No, it’s not good, and you’ll know exactly where it’s going at every turn, but it’s middle-of-the-road enough to not be a complete waste of time. And, if nothing else, it’ll give you a new example of what to use when someone asks you what is the most formulaic thriller you’ve ever seen. You can answer “And Soon the Darkness” and everyone should understand — except nobody really saw this one (did it even get a theatrical release?), and might mistake you for calling out the original British thriller of the same name.
The differences between this one and the one from the ’70s are very slight. In that one, two British girls are trapped in France, while in this one, two American girls are stranded in Argentina. One of them eventually gets captured, and the other has to look for her, suspecting everyone possible in the process. There’s a love-interest/suspect (here played by Karl Urban), an uninterested police force, and some creepy villagers. Everything you need in a thriller, I suppose.
The only part missing is actual thrills, or something resembling suspense. The search for the captured girl isn’t handled with any sense of urgency, the suspects are as predictable as they come — you should figure out who is behind the capture as soon as you see the character appear on-screen — and none of the attempted jolts work as planned. Beat for beat, this could be a remake of forty other movies, not just some semi-obscure British flick from 1970.
The girls are cardboard cutouts that you have seen before. Odette Yustman plays the “out there” one — the character who would rather party than study — while Amber Heard plays the serious, uptight, responsible one. Yustman is the one who gets captured, not that it matters as they have about as little personality as possible, and Heard goes and searches for her. That’s the extent of the plot, save for finding out who is behind it and dealing with that person after the big reveal.
I found myself liking one thing about And Soon the Darkness: It doesn’t care about letting characters survive. As soon as one has fulfilled its purpose, a trigger will be pulled and he or she will be removed from the picture with a bullet. This isn’t one of those movies where you know everyone will make it through to the end, and once you realize that, the stakes seem a little bit higher. “These people could actually die,” you think, before realizing that because you’ve seen this story many times before, you know how it’ll end anyway.
And Soon the Darkness is rated R. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why. It’s not violent, it’s not scary, there’s no nudity, and the language adheres to the MPAA’s standards of not saying the F-word more than three times — I counted two, for the record. Yes, I was paying more attention to the content from the side of its rating than I was paying attention to the story or characters, or even just getting scared. I couldn’t feel less for a movie like this one.
Another thing that And Soon the Darkness has going for it is the lush environment in which the filming took place. Argentina has to be desirable — otherwise, why would these characters leave their biking troupe in order to go exploring on their own? As such, it has to be presented beautifully to us. The cinematography is gorgeous, and if you’re here just for sightseeing, you might have more fun than if you want a thrilling experience. There are waterfalls, jungles and quaint little towns that you get to view; you don’t need to go biking in the country yourself after this.
Looking back, some of the things that happen in the film don’t make sense. After Yustman disappears, Heard and Urban come to where she was last seen. Blood comes into Urban’s view, but he says nothing. Why? Because that makes him feel more like a suspect — even though he rarely appears that way afterward and after the reveal, you’ll realize that he had no reason to act this way. And it didn’t even have an effect on the plot; Heard is still convinced that her friend was kidnapped and that is how it has to be.
I called the cast attractive in the opening paragraph. I stand by that. Talented? I’m not so certain, at least, not based on this film. Granted, they’re given nothing much to do, but considering it’s Heard’s performance that has to carry most of the weight, and since it doesn’t stand up, I was disappointed. Based on this film, she shouldn’t be in movies. Neither should Yustman or Urban, to be honest, although an unseen-by-most-people film like this one isn’t going to matter to many people.
And Soon the Darkness isn’t a terrible thriller, but it’s as generic and formulaic as they come, and I can’t recommend it for any reason other than to sight-see parts of Argentina or the cast. The thriller aspects don’t work, there’s no attempt at believable drama, and there’s nothing much of value to be had. Even if you’re a fan of these actors, they’ve been in better movies that just might not bore you to tears.