The Dark and the Wicked Movie Review

Written by Joel Harley

Released by Shudder


Written and directed by Bryan Bertino
2020, 95 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Streaming Exclusively on Shudder 25th February 2021

Marin Ireland as Louise
Michael Abbott Jr. as Michael
Julie Oliver-Touchstone as Mother
Lynn Andrews as Nurse


Summoned to the family farm after their father falls gravely ill, two siblings learn that the old man’s imminent death is somehow not the worst thing at play. Dad’s dying and Mom is struggling to adjust to her duties as a full-time carer; Louise (Marin Ireland) and Michael (Michael Abbott Jr.) arrive on the family homestead, too little, too late. It’s evident that something dark and wicked has latched onto the land. With their father too sick to leave, the kids are stuck with it until he passes.

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Rarely does a film’s title prove to be so apt as The Dark and the Wicked. The bloody fingerprints of The Witch and The Babadook are all over this moody family drama; an unsettling portrait of grief, trauma and guilt at its most damaging. Like last year’s Relic, it finds its horrors in the decline of a parent; the guilt of absent children manifesting as something terrible. Like director Bryan Bertino's The Strangers, it's deliberately obtuse. Why? Because they came home.

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Those unimpressed by the likes of The Witch, Hereditary and other so-called ‘elevated’ horror stories are unlikely to be won over by Bertino’s bleak haunted house movie. The film opens dark and miserably, and stays there, drowning its characters in an almost palpable dread. The Dark and the Wicked is deeply oppressive, its atmosphere sustained and uncompromising. But even the “it’s not proper horror” crowd will find it hard to argue with Bertino’s commitment to scares (of the jump variety and otherwise). The story gets nasty surprisingly early, and rarely lets up. It’s Color out of Space without the Lovecraftian sheen; a smaller-scale version of The Shining.

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While the relentless misery can be stifling, the film’s power is undeniable, its imagery the work of nightmares. All of this, accompanied by the howling wind and deeply chilling farm noises. No, ‘deeply chilling farm noises’ is not a sequence of words I ever expected to find myself using either, but never before have wailing livestock been so effectively utilised by a horror film.

The Dark and the Wicked is another haunting, upsetting horror film from one of horror cinema's most unique voices. Like his previous movies, it's nothing like any of his previous movies, but distinctly Bryan Bertino all the same.


Movie: 4 Star Rating Cover

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Joel Harley
Staff Reviewer
Haribo fiend, Nicolas Cage scholar and frequently functioning alcoholic. These are just some of the words which can be used to describe Joel Harley. The rest, he uses to write film criticism for Horror DNA and a variety of websites and magazines. Sometimes he manages to do so without swearing.
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