I am latecomer to the slowly unraveling charms of the first version of And Soon The Darkness (I reviewed the 1970 British giallo here last year), but at least I didn't miss the bus (see: cliché #56 in this remake).
And Soon The Darkness v. 2010 opens on something right out of an Eli Roth movie (which is fine, if it's an Eli Roth movie), showing a half naked young woman chained to a wall as she undergoes horrific torture of the electrical kind. Fade to black. Cut to our heroines, sensible Stephanie (Amber Heard) and outgoing Ellie (Odette Yustman), young American adventurers on a rigorous bicycle ride through Argentina. As they near the end of their trip, they decide to take a rest and blow off a little steam, then catch a bus to the next city (of course, they miss this bus and fall head over heels into a series of calamities).
But I'm getting ahead of the story; while in this remote mountain village which just happens to have kickass bar with an awesome jukebox (Macarena, anyone?), Steph and Ellie meet two eligible bachelors. One's a creepy, groping local named Calvo (César Vianco) and the other one is Michael (Karl Urban), a handsome Westerner with intense hazel eyes and beautifully highlighted hair. Guess which one gets the date?
Well, you may have just guessed wrong. After all the excitement with the torture scene and the obligatory girls-gone-wild nonsense, And Soon The Darkness finally settles into some semblance of its source. There's mystery and wonderment.
The next day, bus missed and forced to the pedal, the pair head out for the open road. While on a scenic rest stop and sun-bathe, tempers flare and Steph leaves Ellie behind. Not for long, but just long enough for Ellie to disappear leaving nothing behind but a suntan lotion oiled bloodstain.
The axis of the original story may be somewhat the same, and the slower-paced parts are admirably recreated with flourishes of suspense, but overall And Soon The Darkness is pretty much a paint-by-number thriller. It's by no means bad — in fact it surpasses the original in certain instances (namely, an intense scene set in a flooded out old ghost town). The acting from Heard and Yustman is above their average (see: The Stepfather and The Unborn), and Karl Urban is always welcome.
The real star of the show is Argentina. Shot on location, and quite prettily by DP Gabriel Beristain (who also did Blades II and III), the highways, roadsides, cemeteries, waterfall vistas and mountainsides are glorious. Best of all is the town in which the climatic chase takes place — bathed in its silvery austere hues, earth rent with cracks, sporting sagging storefronts and petrified trees, it looks like a million GCI bucks ala The Road or The Book of Eli, but it's all real. The location, reveals director Marcos Efron, was actually discovered by his father.
Speaking of Efron, he makes a good impression in the behind-the-scenes making-of doc (and that's not the only 'behind' — there's lots of extra footage of the lovely ladies in their bikini's, not to mention some well-timed commentary). It looks as though And Soon The Darkness was a fun movie to make, and we learn how Heard, as a co-producer, went the extra mile.
= = =
Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson
And Soon the Darkness opened on December 17th in a limited theatrical run, with the DVD/Blu-ray release to follow tomorrow (December 28).
At the premiere with stars and director