In 2008, newcomer Bryan Bertino wrote and directed what many horror fans consider a masterclass in atmospheric, isolation horror films: The Strangers. Now in 2020, he’s climbed back into that arena with the dreadfully eerie The Dark and the Wicked.
Set on Bertino’s own Texas family farm, The Dark and the Wicked centers around a dying father, an exhausted mother and the return of their adult children who wish to say ‘goodbye’ to their dad and help mom through the hard times – but mom isn’t too happy to have them home; in fact, she asked them not to come. It becomes very clear that their mother is more than just exhausted, she’s also terrified…because she believes that the devil is lurking nearby to take her husband’s soul.
What unfolds at the farm after the children, Louise (Marin Ireland) and Michael (Michael Abbott Jr.), arrive is layer upon layer of suffocating terror; proving that the most frightening enemy is the one against which you have no control, Bertino shows once again that he is masterful at creating dread – his use of wide shots, haunting sound and even title cards depicting the day of the week all help to build the tension, letting us know that we’re leading to some sort of grim conclusion. And grim it is.
Special mention must be made of the performance of Marin Ireland (The Irishman, The Umbrella Academy) in what may be my favorite performance by an actress since Toni Collette in Hereditary.
There is no doubt that The Dark and the Wicked will be in my year-end list of my favorite horror films of 2020. I dare you to watch it and not be scared.
The Dark and the Wicked is available on VOD now.