NightStream Film Festival Review: Darkness

Year: 2020
Runtime: 98 Minutes
Director: Emanuela Rossi
Writers: Emanuela Rossi, Claudio Corbucci
Stars: Denise Tantucci, Valerio Binasco, Olimpia Tosatto, Gaia Bocci

By Tom Moore

With her feature writing/directorial debut, Emanuela Rossi crafts a chilling display of domestic abuse spurred by monstrous paranoia in a post-apocalyptic setting with “Darkness”. The film follows Stella (Denise Tantucci) – the oldest of three daughters that live with their father (Valerio Binasco) in a boarded-up house in order to stay protected. After a solar explosion causes the outdoor environment to be unsafe for exploration, Stella and her sisters are forced to stay inside while their father braves the outdoors in order to gather supplies. However, Stella begins to realize that her father isn’t exactly being honest with the conditions outside of their house – especially since he tells them that women are greatly affected by the conditions of the sun. With new knowledge of the outside, Stella begins to rebel against her father and his abusive behavior, and it could lead to some drastic consequence for her and her sisters as their father tries to remain in control. Just within its premise and opening moments, it’s easy to see that “Darkness” touches on some claustrophobic and paranoia filled fears that are mostly perfect for the current pandemic. The plastic all over the house, the daunting fear of what the harmful effects could be of walking into the outside world, and the way that Stella and her sisters are forced to find ways to entertain themselves while stuck inside is incredibly reminiscent to what’s happening now. It’s surely what people imagine as a “worst case scenario” in this time and it makes the dark and drab atmosphere so effective in making viewers uneasy. The only detractor of it is within it’s twist as the idea of the condition that the father describes not being accurate is what keeps me from saying that “Darkness” is the perfect film for the time. With the effects of coronavirus still being felt and thousands still being infected, it’s hard to recommend something like “Darkness” as it doesn’t fully fit the narrative of coronavirus being something that we should take seriously.
“Emanuela Rossi crafts a chilling display of domestic abuse spurred by monstrous paranoia in a post-apocalyptic setting with “Darkness”.
However, that doesn’t mean that it’s not an effective thriller in its own right. The display of manipulative domestic abuse from the father is truly crippling to watch as he does everything in his power to keep them under his control. The strong writing from Rossi and Claudio Corbucci and a great performance from Binasco showcase the father as the monster that he truly is. He’s constantly trying to pit the younger girls against Stella, physically abusing Stella as she tries to make life as enjoyable for them, and keeping them inside at any cost – even if it means that one of them has to go. He’s so narcissistically evil and mentally manipulative that you just instantly loathe him and root for any sort of way that Stella and her sisters can escape. Even when he’s not there, his presence and impact can still be felt Stella is quite the opposite from her father, thankfully, as she’s a genuinely caring figure for her two younger sisters and comes into her own as a provider. While at first she just acts as the parent that her father isn’t by teaching her youngest sister Aria (Olimpia Tosatto) to speak and helping her sister Luce (Gaia Bocci) transition into womanhood, Stella ends up becoming both a provider and a protector as her father’s lies about the outside world catch up with him. There’s a major transition with her character when she makes major discoveries about the outside world that makes you connect with her on a deeper level. Tantucci brings such an intriguing level of wonder and tries to make the best decisions for herself and her sisters. She’s an incredibly admirable protagonist and makes the film’s big truth bomb much more impactful. darkness
“The strong writing from Rossi and Claudio Corbucci and a great performance from Binasco showcase the father as the monster that he truly is.”
While the big discovery that’s made isn’t super out of the realm of possibilities and something we haven’t seen before, it hits strong in the moment. The second it happens, and Stella sees what the outside world is really like, the film takes on a different tone and perspectives start to shift. It certainly departs from the dark and drab place we start out in and goes to a much brighter place. Stella becomes even more easy to connect to as she goes through major transitions with other people and is able to go on her own path in a way that makes her arc satisfying and her standing up to her father very gratifying. It’s a twist that does exactly what it’s supposed to do, change our perspectives of what really happening, and it does that greatly and leads to satisfying conclusions. Although “Darkness” only carries the initial visual and actions to be a fitting pandemic thriller, it harnesses enough elements of a horrifying display of domestic abuse and a rise from the ashes story with a game-changing twist to be a great watch. 4 stars

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