And Soon the Darkness (1970)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2011-01-18 03:40

Written by: Terry Nation and Brian Clemens
Directed by: Robert Fuest
Starring: Pamela Franklin, Michele Dotrice, Sandor Eles, and John Nettleton

Reviewed by: Brett G.

Two beautiful girls on a bright summer day.
And suddenly, one beautiful girl running for her life.

Generally speaking, thereís a lot of negativity and angst surrounding any and all horror remakes. However, one recent effort (if you call sticking a bikini-clad Odette Yustman and Amber Heard in front of a camera an effort) seemed to fly under the teeth-gnashing radar of horror fans everywhere. Iím speaking of And Soon the Darkness, which few seemed to realize was an update of this 1970 Robert Fuest-helmed thriller that serves as an early entry in the ďvacationers in perilĒ sub-genre thatís seen a resurgence in recent years.

Our vacationers here are Jane and Cathy, a couple of nurses from London who are cycling through rural France. The former is more interested in staying the course and continuing their tour without incident, while the latter becomes interested in a local man that she sees at a local cafť. After a bit of a spat, Jane decides to take off, leaving Cathy behind; before she makes it out of town, though, Jane hears a story about the townís poor history with disappearing girls. Sure enough, when she goes to find Cathy, sheís disappeared, leaving Jane and the aforementioned mysterious man left to search for her.

A deliberately paced affair, this iteration of And Soon the Darkness is a solid little thriller that manages to build a legitimate, almost Hitchcockian sense of suspense. Thereís a sense of dread isolation overhanging the proceedings, and Fuest is able to capture this with some interesting camera work and use of dialogue. His camera always seems to be roving about in a voyeuristic manner and often captures objects and people that intrude into the frame, which creates a sense of unease and distrust even in what weíre seeing. Being a mystery film, the filmís object is to hide just what has happened, and it almost feels like Fuest takes this down to the level of simple shots, as it often feels like weíre not quite getting the entire picture, literally.

Whatís perhaps even more interesting is that all this camera work largely captures nothing but dialogue throughout the film. This is a very talkative picture, filled with conversations that fill in the gaps and serve to move the plot forward. This is usually a red-flag, but the film still remains strangely effective, particularly in the way the French dialogue is handled. There are several un-subtitled conversations between characters in French, and weíre no more privy to whatís being said than Jane herself is. This creates a natural distrust and wariness of the speakers and also captures Janeís uneasiness of being alone in the middle of a foreign country. Itís a subtle, cerebral approach, and when combined with the filmís shots of the vast, open landscapes, one feels like theyíve been dropped into the middle of nowhere. And despite the filmís title, which promises some impending doom, everything takes place in broad daylight, which somehow only serves to heighten oneís insecurities.

Of course, this type of film has to be judged on its ability to craft a compelling mystery; itís a bit less effective in this respect. Itís loaded with all the requisite red herrings and a couple of off-kilter performances from Eles and Nettleton in the roles the male companion and a police officer, respectively. Each manages to oscillate between being charismatic and creepy, which will keep viewers on their toes. Franklin and Doltrice, who both showed up in other Euro cult horrors, are serviceable damsels in distress that counteract all of the ominous vibes. The film does just about everything right for most of its running time, and it trips up only when it fails to truly surprise viewers at the end. The final reveal is hardly shocking, but itís also not exactly nonsensical either. Still, thereís a sense of being under-whelmed, especially since the film does such a good job of pushing towards that moment of crisis.

As such, And Soon the Darkness is prevented from achieving any sort of greatness; instead, it manages to be a good pot-boiler that never quite bubbles over into anything profound. Itís still certainly a much more interesting film, tactically speaking, than its remake, as its camera work and its ability to create dread without showing much is to be commended. The film certainly displays Fuest's technical prowess, which he would later put to even better use in the two Dr. Phibes films. Despite that recently-released remake, And Soon the Darkness still only has one DVD release, and it came from Anchor Bay back in 2002. The disc has a decent but somewhat muddy-looking anamorphic widescreen presentation, a clear mono soundtrack, an audio commentary with Fuest, Clemens, and moderator Jonathan Sothcott, a theatrical trailer, radio spots, and talent bios. Itís a decent, if unremarkable package, and itís perhaps most noteworthy as being out of print. It commands fairly decent prices on the secondary market, but itís not quite worth it. Instead, see if you canít track it down with a rental service. Rent it!

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