03rd Aug2017

‘Darkness Wakes’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Aisling Knight, Richard Kilgour, Jill Buchanan, Samantha Schnitzler, Matt Veckman, Nick Bridge-Butler, Bjorn Franklin | Written and Directed by Simon Richardson


Hired to be a cat-sitter for an odd couple, the Farrows, college student Charlotte is given the run of a creepy house in the middle of the woods for a few days for an extravagant amount of money. The kind of money that students can’t turn down – of course there’s a reason that a meagre cat-sitting job comes with a huge pay packet… There’s a catch. There’s always a catch. A pretty big catch in this case given that this is a horror movie!

The clue is in the name of the couple who hired Charlotte. The Farrows. Hmmmm… Farrow. Where have I heard that name before? Could it be that this particular creepy couple are named after Mia Farrow? Star of Rosemary’s Baby, Mia Farrow? Yup, you guessed it. Like Mia Farrow was ravaged by Satan in Roman Polanski’s classic horror, here Charlotte is subjected to a similar ordeal.

It’s a classic horror trope. Someone is hired to do a job for a creepy person/couple and it turns out there’s something legitimately wrong about the creepy folk! From films like Babysitter Wanted to the more recent House of the Devil, it’s a horror cliche that never gets old. With stories like these it’s all about the execution. And Darkness Wakes executes things perfectly.

One of my all-time favourite British horror films is Blood on Satan’s Claw, which mixed sex, sleaze and terror fantastically in it’s story of Satan at work in 18th-Century England and was marked by a stunning, uninhibited, performance by Linda Hayden. It’s a film that, for me has never been matched. Until now. Darkness Wakes takes everything that made Blood on Satan’s Claw so great – an uninhibited central performance, a mix of sex and horror and, of course, some creepy Satanic visuals – and applies it to a more modern setting; updating proceedings for today’s horror audience, complete with some truly nightmarish visuals and enough [jump] scares to even get hardened horror fans hearts pounding.

However where Darkness Wakes truly excels is in its casting of Aisling Knight, an actress who gives her all to the role – laying herself bare, metaphorically and literally in the quest of bringing life to Charlotte. And her transformation from virginal college student, unwilling to give herself to the older man whom she’s attracted to; to a slutty booty call for the devil, is made all the more powerful by Knight’s uninhibited performance.

I’ll admit, for a moment it seems like Darkness Wakes is actually NOT as horrific as first thought, as if Charlotte’s “relationship” with the evil, cloaked, figure is actually a metaphor for her sexual awakening – especially when she decides to have the man she hasn’t slept with yet over to the house to stay the night, but any thoughts of a multi-layered, multi-faceted tale is thrown out of the window when the true story of what is happening to Charlotte is revealed to her – and the audience – in the final fifteen minutes of the film. A truth which is just as scary, if not moreso, as Rosemary’s…

A film that mixes sex, violence and horror in ways that haven’t been seen since the likes of 1981’s exploitation fear flick Death Shock (directed by Lindsay Honey, aka the infamous Ben Dover) and Norman J. Warren’s oeuvre – think Prey, Inseminoid and Satan’s SlaveDarkness Wakes is a superb slice of British terror that marks writer/director Simon Richardson and in particular his star Aisling Knight as talents to watch.

***** 5/5

Darkness Wakes is released on DVD and VOD on August 28th from Left Films.


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