The Darkness (2016)

I’ve yet to be impressed by anything that Greg McLean has done in cinema and he meets my expectations with “The Darkness.” Though it’s defined as a horror movie, I’d be hesitant to call it that since the horror genre’s veneer is so thin. “The Darkness” is really more of a painfully awkward drama about a dysfunctional family who put up with one another more than loves each other. In the prologue they seem to like one another just fine, but when we see them in their own surroundings, we’re introduced to petulant, obnoxious, rude, and self destructive people with no clear reason for being so dysfunctional beyond it being a good pit stop before the weak scares.

After the Taylor family go to a trip to the Grand Canyon, their youngest son, the autistic Michael, falls through a hole in the ground and discovers a small grouping of rocks. After miraculously escaping the hole, the Taylors return home to learn that nothing is the same anymore. We’re told that, but really everything seems like the same for these characters, and the only noticeable change is that Michael looks aimlessly in to a wall talking to a female entity we never see, and there’s a growing blotch where he’s looking that no one notices. Along the way “The Darkness” performs like a drama about a family rotting from the inside.

Michael is autistic and violent, his mom played by Radha Mitchell enables him and never says no to his demands, dad Peter is an overworked architect contemplating an affair with a young co-worker, and daughter Joy is a resentful brat who we greets every visitor to her room with “Get the hell out.” Oh and she’s bulimic! Why? I don’t know, because it’s dramatic! “The Darkness” is so bereft of scares that it can’t even derive the smallest jumps. I’m not sure what the spirit is doing to the Taylors beyond annoying the shit out of them. It taps in to their insecurities and irritations and uses those elements to—uh—give them a bad day.

There’s a jump scare (I use the term very loosely) with a snake that goes nowhere, a hilarious dog attack, and the confusing presence of Paul Reiser who is given so much more importance than he needs for a movie of this ilk. There’s no pay off, no scares, no original plot elements, but a ton of melodrama worthy of a TV movie of the week. “The Darkness” wants to be “Amityville” or “Poltergeist,” but it’s just PG-13 pseudo-horror drama muck.