No movie is safe from the Hollywood remake machine. It doesn't matter if it's a renowned classic or a little-known cult film, it will be dusted off and redone for an audience too young to know about the original. This is the case with "And Soon the Darkness," a remake of a British thriller from 1970 about a pair of young English ingénues terrorized in the French countryside. In his first feature film, director Marcos Efron (with co-writer Jennifer Derwingson) transplant the tale to South America and cast two of Hollywood's rising starlets, Amber Heard ("Pineapple Express," "Zombieland") and Odette Yustman ("Cloverfield," "You Again").
Heard and Yustman play BFFs, Stephanie and Ellie, two comely American girls on a cycling trip through Argentina. Stephanie and Ellie have split off from the rest of the tour group to adventure on their own. They arrive in a sleepy little village in the middle of nowhere. It seems peaceful enough, but appearances can be deceiving. The denizens walk around on eggshells while some eye the newcomers with suspicion. The fact that there are pictures of a missing girl plastered around town should be a red flag. However, our heroines don't notice anything is amiss. They get dolled up and hit the local bar for a night of drinks.
While Stephanie is the more responsible of the two, Ellie is the party girl. She flirts with the guys using what little Spanish she knows, downs shots, and sings along to "I Touch Myself" by the Divinyls. After a few too many drinks, the girls oversleep and miss the morning's bus out of town. What else is a pair of nubile gals to do then slip into their bikinis and sunbathe? Stephanie gets into an argument with Ellie over boyfriend troubles and storms off. When she heads back to apologize, Ellie is gone, leaving behind her cell phone. Stephanie tries to report her friend's disappearance to the local policeman (Cesar Vianco) who quickly dismisses the seriousness of the situation. Stephanie finds sympathetic help in Michael (Karl Urban), an American expatriate, who has lost someone too.
"And Soon the Darkness" presents nothing that hasn't been seen before, especially in the 'pretty American girls get abducted and tortured by evil foreigners' subgenre. Marcos Efron should at least be commended for not going the torture porn route and turning his film into another "Hostel" knock-off. Those of you who are gorehounds or just looking for a bit of T&A may be disappointing. The film does contain some violence, but nothing grotesque and there's no nudity whatsoever. There is a nice close-up of Yustman's posterior. On the other hand, "Darkness" is a competently made thriller with Efron lulling the audience (and his protagonists) into a false sense of security with gorgeous shots of the Argentinean landscape. The film's climax is exciting though not enough to bring you to the edge of your seat.
One of the movie's main weaknesses is the interminable amount of screen time that must be sat through before the action finally kicks in. This is the obligatory section of the movie where we are forced to get to know everyone. The characters are incredibly thin and it hardly helps that their conversations are vain and uninteresting. The lead actresses aren't called upon to do anything other than look pretty and scared. Karl Urban's appearance is a head scratcher. His role is so miniscule and meaningless you'll wonder why he even bothered to show up, unless it was for a free vacation. The same goes for Academy Award nominee Adriana Barraza ("Babel") as the owner of the town's one and only hotel.
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The transfer is impeccable with the lush countryside shown in all its glory. The picture is pristine with the colors coming in vividly.
The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Dialogue is crisp and clear with the score and sound effects coming in strong.
The Blu-Ray includes an audio commentary with director Marcos Efron, editor Todd Miller, and cinematographer Gabriel Beristain. The track is a bit bland, but informative as the trio discuss shooting on location in a foreign country and working with the cast.
Director's Video Diary (10:11) is a behind-the-scenes look at the film's production. There's footage of the location shooting and glimpses at the ingenuity of the local crew members. Also shown is starlet Amber Heard bringing soccer balls and notebooks to the local schoolchildren.
Rounding out the BD is a collection of deleted scenes, the film's trailer, and previews for other Anchor Bay releases.
"And Soon the Darkness" might be considered perfectly acceptable cinema. It's a film that isn't overly stylish or overly indulgent. It isn't particularly inventive or captivating either. "And Soon the Darkness" offers only two hot looking leads and a story filled with predictable twists and cardboard characters.