Fantastic Fest

FF2014 – ‘Darkness by Day’ – movie review

Darkness by Day, an Argentinian horror film by director Martin De Salvo (who previously directed the critically acclaimed Kept and Dreamless) isn’t your average horror film. If you’re looking for high octane thrills and plenty of guts and gore, then this isn’t the film for you. If you’re looking for originality and depth however, you need look no further.

The film focuses on a young girl named Virginia who lives in a large house in a small quiet town. During what appears to be rabies outbreak, her father suddenly leaves to check on his ill niece. Not long after that, Virginia’s other cousin, the eerily beautiful Anabel, is dropped off at the house by an unknown driver with little in the way of explanation. Anabel is quiet, sickly pale and distant, but the pair manage to form a close bond anyway. One night, Anabel disappears into the dark forest that surrounds the house and a dark mystery slowly begins to unravel.

Subtle and understated, Darkness by Day chooses to suggest and hint at its horrors rather than spoon feed everything to the viewer. This turns the evil forces in the film into an unseen presence that lurks inside the imagination, making the whole experience more profound and psychologically engaging. A spine tingling score perfectly complements the stunning blue darkness of the night scenes created by cinematographer Nicolas Trovato. In fact, the whole film is extremely well shot and its pacing is almost perfect, making it extremely watchable and engrossing. Every location is hauntingly pretty, which adds even more to the pervading atmosphere of isolation.

As the plot progresses, the suspense increases and the relationship between Virginia and Anabel becomes more complex and we begin to ask ourselves questions about what is really going on and why certain people are acting in certain ways. Rather than making things overly confusing, this allows us to identify more with the plight of central characters on a more real level. This lucidity is also helped by outstanding acting, especially on behalf of the two lead roles.

Throughout the film, a brooding undertone of deep sadness is present, but as secrets are revealed and the film reaches its climax, this gives way to profound and thought provoking revelations that will stay with you a long time after the film ends. At one point, I found myself thinking that if the film had more action sequences, it could be the new Let the Right One In and indeed it shares a lot of characteristics with that film; both are engaging horror stories that feel classic and contemporary at the same time and concentrate more on the human frailty of their characters more than anything else. But to compare the two would be unfair, Darkness by Day is a great film in its own right, equally innovative as it is bone-chilling.

4 / 5

DARKNESS BY DAY is directed by Martín De Salvo and stars  Pablo Caramelo, Marta Lubos, and Romina Paula. 

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