Fantasia Film Festival Review: ‘The Dark And The Wicked’

Review by James Lindorf

For the past 23 years, the Fantasia International Film Festival has taken place in the heart of beautiful Montreal, the largest city in Canada’s Québec province. Fantasia, like many big-name festivals, SWSX, TIFF, and Tribeca, to name a few, will be hosting a virtual version of their festival this year. Fantasia’s 24th installment occurs on August 20th – September 2nd and will include both Live and On-Demand Screenings, live Q&As, and special events, like John Carpenter becoming Fantasia’s first recipient of their virtual Cheval Noir award. The process to purchase tickets can be found on their website. Some conversations and events can be seen on the Fantasia YouTube channel.

For two weeks, the Fantasia International Film Festival is the home for Bryan Bertino’s latest film, “The Dark and the Wicked.” The 42-year-old Writer and Director had his biggest hit when in 2008, he delivered the modern horror classic “The Strangers.” That film made $82 million at the box office on a 9 million dollar budget. In his newest film, something is afoot on a rural farm that could tear a family apart. On that farm, a man (Michael Zagst) is slowly dying, bedridden, and fighting through his final breaths. He is a source of deep sadness for his wife (Julie Oliver-Touchstone), who is gradually succumbing to her grief. Returning to the farm to support their mother and say their goodbyes are Louise (Marin Ireland) and Michael (Michael Abbott Jr.). It doesn’t take them long to decide that there is something more than sorrow weighing on their mother. It isn’t long before they begin suffering from a similar darkness.

From beginning to end, “The Dark and the Wicked” possess a brooding atmosphere similar to that of recent popular horror films “Hereditary” and “The Witch.” The muted gray tones of the film along with the excellent work of the music and sound departments only add to the feeling of impending dread. “The Dark and the Wicked” lives and dies by how much you appreciate its tone. There isn’t much payoff to excite gorehounds, which is to be expected given the subject matter. However, what does appear in the film is as brutal as it is brief. Then there is the mysterious and vaguely religious cause of their woes, which can anger fans who like to understand everything that is going on. That sense of confusion and the fact that the family did nothing to bring the evil into their lives work with everything else to add to the audience’s mounting tension. If that tension leads to fear, then the film has been a success, but it has an equal chance of leading to frustration. Horror movies are traditionally moralistic. People are punished for violating some rules, whether they knew it existed or not. Random horror and violence normally works better when there is a human element at fault. When it is something supernatural, it tends to work a little better when someone enters forbidden land or reads from an ancient book bringing the evil into their life. “The Dark and the Wicked” was an excellent follow up to “A Mermaid in Paris” with their contrasting styles. I couldn’t be happier with my start to this film festival, and I can’t wait to share more of their films with you.

According to an exclusive from Deadline, ahead of its world premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival, “The Dark and the Wicked” landed a distribution deal with RLJE Films and Shudder. It is now set for a U.S. theatrical release on November 6th, with the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand releasing the film in 2021. So, you better get your Fantasia tickets now, or you will have to wait at least two months.

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