Format: Streaming video from Amazon/Freevee on Fire!
The name And Soon the Darkness is an objectively cool name for a horror movie. Based on that name, it’s clear that we’re going somewhere dark, but where we’re going is not clear. Are there going to be demons in this? Witches? Something supernatural? A deadly cult? There are a lot of possibilities with that title. Sadly, it’s the best part of the film. It’s possible that in 1970 And Soon the Darkness was a lot more inventive than it appears now, but this film is easy to predict. It aims for a twist ending, and even that isn’t much of a shock, and it has to cheat to get there.
It's something I’ve talked about on this blog before, but And Soon the Darkness is a prime example of a significant problem in plotting. What is that problem? It’s having characters act in particular ways because the plot requires it rather than taking the time to give us character reasons to get to the desired end. If your characters are forced to act in stupid, unnatural ways or in ways that don’t fit with them, the movie doesn’t work. If getting to the event you want requires a scientist character to (for instance) forget a basic formula or not know something a college freshman would know, your story has a problem. And that’s the issue with And Soon the Darkness. There’s a lot to get into here, so you can expect that everything past this point will be considered under a spoiler tag.
British nurses Jane (Pamela Franklin) and Cathy (Michele Dotrice) are taking a biking tour through rural France. Jane seems to insist on them making a certain number of miles every day, and Cathy is getting bored with things. They are passed by and then pass a young man (Sandor Eles) on a motorbike, and eventually Cathy decides that she’s tired and wants to sunbathe for a bit. Jane and Cathy have a fight, Cathy more or less telling Jane that she is a drag, and Jane pedals off to the next town.
What we soon discover is that this stretch of road they are on has something of a reputation. She learns from the proprietor of a roadside café (Hana Maria Pravda) that there have been problems on this road. Specifically, a young blonde woman was raped and murdered in the past on this stretch of road, and of course Cathy is blonde. Around this same time, the man on the motorbike shows up and strikes up a conversation with Jane. We learn he is named Paul and that he is a private investigator who unofficially investigated the previous murder. Jane trusts him implicitly and they ride back to where Jane left Cathy. Naturally, Cathy is missing, but her camera is still there.
Okay, I’m not going to go blow-by-blow for the rest of the film, but this is exactly where And Soon the Darkness starts to go completely off the rails for me because the characters, especially Paul, start acting in plot-necessary ways. We learn about Paul’s occupation here, and especially we learn that he just happened to be in this location on vacation at the time of the previous murder. And, he just happens to be in the same location on vacation at the time of Cathy’s disappearance. Jane discovers that he has taken the film out of Cathy’s camera, and when she confronts him about it, he…opens the film canister and spoils the pictures. Why? Because we’re supposed to start suspecting that Paul is the killer.
Is there going to be more of this? Of course there is. Eventually, Jane finds the local gendarme (John Nettleton) and when he goes to investigate, Paul shows up and starts demanding that Jane let him in. This is not merely him knocking on the door—he’s going full psychopath, and again we’re supposed to think that he’s the killer. And I’ve told you there’s an attempted twist ending, right? Later, when Jane finds Cathy’s corpse and Paul shows up immediately, that is hammered in.
Of course, Paul is not the bad guy here. There were plenty of ways to indicate this, and having him be present for both murders by chance gets us most of the way there. So why have him expose the film roll? Why have him go completely insane trying to talk to Jane? Why would a private investigator do any of this? Well, in the real world he wouldn’t, but we need to be convinced that he wants to murder Jane, and so that’s what the plot makes him do.
And Soon the Darkness does one thing well, and I honestly don’t know if it’s the film or merely the version I watched. A great deal of the dialogue takes place in French and without subtitles. It works well with keeping us in the dark, much like Jane would be in many of these situations. Jane doesn’t know what’s going on, and if you don’t speak French, you’re going to be lost for a great deal of it as well. But, the version I watched didn’t have any subtitles available. I have no idea if this lack of subtitles increasing the confusion and possible dread was intentional from the filmmakers or a lucky accident of a crappy version of the film.
Having the best part of the film possibly be an artifact of a poor copy of the film is not something that makes your film worth recommending.
Why to watch And Soon the Darkness: A classic formula.
Why not to watch: There are no surprises here.
I can't stand watching films presented in a poor quality as it tends to be a buzzkill for me. I tried to do that with an old Satyajit Ray film but it didn't work but fortunately I didn't have to wait that long since it would be restored and the wait was worth it.ReplyDelete
That's just it--I'm not sure if it's intentional or not. If it's intentional, it's great. If it's unintentional, it should be.Delete
The same thing happens in The Third Man, and it's a great aspect of the film (and it's clearly intentional).
I'll agree that the film had some perplexing character actions but I liked it more than you did. In the version I saw there were no subtitles for the French language portions either so I assume that was a directorial decision to throw the audience off-kilter. I thought the strongest part of the film was Pamela Franklin's performance, a very resourceful actress she's a terrific audience surrogate for the unease and building danger her character found herself in.ReplyDelete
I appreciate the confirmation on the lack of subtitles. I love it as an intentional choice, because it adds to the confusion of the character, and allows us to mimic this (presuming we don't speak French). That this is more likely intended, it raises the film in my estimation.Delete