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Bryan Bertino
Marin Ireland, Michael Abbott Jr., Julie Oliver-Touchstone
Bryan Bertino

When a family gathers to mourn a dying man, a growing sense develops that something evil is taking over the family.
Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $28.96
Release Date: 12/15/2020

• Fantasia Q&A


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The Dark and the Wicked [Blu-Ray] (2020)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 8, 2020)

With a title like The Dark and the Wicked, it seems unlikely that this 2020 film will offer anything other than a grim tale. To the surprise of no one, the movie indeed offers a somber horror effort.

Set on a farm in a remote rural Texas location, a father (Michael Zagst) gradually nears death. To prepare for his imminent demise, his wife (Julie Oliver-Touchstone) calls their adult children Louise (Marin Ireland) and Michael (Michael Abbott Jr.) home.

The kids find their mother stuck in a sense of terrible grief, but they soon find out that more concerns lie underneath this attitude. The longer they stay in their old home, the more Louise and Michael find themselves plagued with traumatic concerns.

When we first met Bryan Bertino, he functioned as the The Strangers, a low-budget horror flick that did pretty well for itself given its insubstantial price tag. Though it cost a mere $9 million, it brought in a decent $80 million worldwide, enough to lead to the less successful 2018 follow-up The Strangers: Prey At Night.

While Bertino wrote that sequel, he didn’t direct it. He followed the 2008 Strangers with 2014’s Mockingbird, a direct-to-video release, and then 2016’s The Monster, another horror flick that enjoyed virtually no theatrical exhibition.

Wicked also failed to find a home on movie screens, though at least the global COVID-19 pandemic could act as a factor there. Still, given the fact Bertino’s last two movies existed mainly on video, I can’t claim to believe this one would’ve gotten a different fate.

I never saw Mockingbird, but I viewed Bertino’s other two flicks, and I can’t claim either impressed me. That said, at least Monster worked better than the mostly poor Strangers, so I thought perhaps his meant Bertino’s filmmaking skills would improve over time.

In theory, that means Wicked should fare even better than the inconsistent Monster. Alas, that doesn’t prove accurate, as Wicked becomes a lackluster effort at best.

Like both of those earlier movies, Wicked proceeds at a gradual pace – a really gradual pace, as what little plot we find moves in a glacial manner. In truth, the film comes without much of a real narrative, as it focuses more on the basic concept of the gloom that surrounds the family.

Eventually, the movie attempts to latch onto a more concrete sense of story, but one should never expect a whole lot in that domain. Instead, the flick prefers to concentrate on its foreboding tone and “slow descent into madness” theme.

That could work, but not as depicted by Bertino. Part of the problem stems from his attempts to paint a methodical push into terror with more overt scares right off the bat.

In a more competent film, the characters and situations would offer at least some semblance of normalcy at the start. Open the movie with a neutral position and then show the collapse into insanity from there.

Instead, Wicked launches with the Mother already pretty far around the bend, and neither Louise nor Michael seem all that stable either. These choices give the movie little wiggle room, so rather than become enveloped in the developing terror, we feel stuck in a rut.

Wicked also telegraphs potential scares right off the bat, partly due to Tom Schrader’s one-note score. As with the gloomy photography and perpetually haunted characters, the music seems ominous and foreboding from Minute One, and this also leaves the movie no room to get creepier. It goes for the eerie gusto right off the bat, and that limits its potential development.

All of this often feels like windowdressing to obscure the essential emptiness at the film’s heart. With thin characters and little real narrative thrust, the movie comes with dark atmosphere and not much more.

Even at 95 minutes, that can make Wicked a tough slog. Without much substance or real terror, the film turns into a sluggish journey to nowhere.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus C

The Dark and the Wicked appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a satisfactory presentation.

Overall sharpness worked well. A few interiors and wide shots could be a little tentative, but the majority of the movie appeared accurate and concise.

I noticed no signs of jaggies or edge enhancement, and shimmering was absent. The film lacked print flaws and seemed clean.

When confronted with a palette, I found a whole lot of brown amber to suit the somber setting. These choices were fine given the stylistic choices.

Blacks seemed dark and right, and shadows demonstrated fairly good clarity, though interiors were slightly dense at times. Even with some drawbacks, this still felt like a “B” image.

Given the movie’s subdued nature, I expected a low-key DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, and that was what I got. The audio concentrated on mild ambience much of the time.

Effects occasionally cropped up around the spectrum, and the film’s spare score also utilized the various channels, but this was usually a restrained soundscape. Still, the mix used the speakers in an appropriate manner that conveyed the atmosphere well.

Audio quality appeared positive. Music was full and rich, while effects seemed accurate and clear.

An important factor in such a chatty film, dialogue remained concise and natural. This became a suitable soundtrack for the story on display.

Only one extra appears here: an online Q&A organized by the Fantasia movie festival. Hosted by Tony Timpone, the panel involves actors Michael Abbott Jr. and Marin Ireland.

The actors discuss writer/director Bryan Bertino and what attracted them to the project, story and characters, their performances, sets and locations, and experiences during the shoot. It’s too bad Bertino and others don’t participate, but the actors make this a largely enjoyable chat.

In the right hands, a moody horror tale like The Dark and the Wicked could work. Unfortunately, those involved fail to develop the moody narrative into anything more than creepy elements with a few jump scares attached. The Blu-ray brings fairly good picture and audio as well as a Q&A session. Wicked never gels into a compelling story.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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