AFTER DARKNESS (2017)
Starring Tim Daly, Kyra Sedgwick, Natalia Dyer, John Patrick Amedori, Roberto Aguire, Valorie Curry, Sam Daly and Christina Mandrell.
Screenplay by Fernando Diez Barroso.
Directed by Batan Silva.
Distributed by Lionsgate. 98 minutes. Rated R.
I totally get the dramatic possibilities of the end of the world. I just wish it didn’t inspire so many bad movies.
After Darkness is the latest in a long, long line of movies of people being driven to their worst just for survival. And, like most of these films, the people were not all that great company long before the apocalypse.
The movie keeps an eye on the Beaty family, from slightly before the catastrophe to weeks later where they are still expecting to be rescued by a mysterious “they” who will take them to “the caves” where the survival of mankind will be happening.
Of course, the family is kind of a nuevo-riche hot mess. They spend their time moping around in their huge mansion and squandering their supplies and energy (they literally keep every light on in the house when electricity is going to be very scarce soon). They seem to figure that they have the golden ticket, so screw the rest of mankind. Therefore, it is really difficult to build up any kind of sympathy or rooting interest for them.
Naturally likable actor Tim Daly plays way against type, making the dad a controlling, unfeeling, entitled, combative prick. Mother Kyra Sedgwick is obviously mentally unstable and completely under his thumb, as are the grown children who show up in hope of salvation.
Clara (Natalia Dyer of Stranger Things) is a spoiled and immature teenager who tries to pretend like nothing will really change. Son Fred (Roberto Aguire) shows up with his hugely pregnant French girlfriend (Valorie Curry), who immediately takes a dislike to his family. The closest thing to a hero here is Ray Jr. (John Patrick Amedori), the closeted gay son who sees what is going on and occasionally comments on it, but he does little to stop it. Plus, he abandons his lover (played by Tim Daly’s son Sam) to probable death rather than stand up to his dad.
There is also a long-dead sister named Abbey (Christina Mandrell), who is spoken of in hushed tones and occasionally appears in flashbacks. We know she died suddenly, and that dad was somehow involved, but don’t know the specifics until late in the film.
What should be rule number one in post-Apocalyptic films, but it almost never followed: don’t make your main characters such huge jerks that we aren’t really invested in their survival. There are only one or two characters in After Darkness that I would have been okay if they lived on, and even them I could have taken or left.
At least After Darkness came up with a novel approach for their end of days – the sun burns itself out, leaving the universe without light or heat. Of course, the film doesn’t quite get this climate aspect right. After weeks of no heat, the world is still warm enough for people to walk around just in winter coats. After weeks of steady snow – it never seems to hit blizzard-like conditions, but it is coming down constantly – the world still never seems to be covered in more than an inch or two of powder.
And that’s pretty much it, really. Having the family sitting around, sniping at each other, waiting for a rescue that may never come gives the film a bit of a post-apocalyptic Waiting for Godot vibe.
Perhaps it would be easier to take if we liked the characters more. Perhaps it would be easier to take if the film didn’t periodically toss in some fire-and-brimstone biblical-type passages on chyrons to push the storyline forward. Perhaps it would be more moving if we saw other signs of damage created by this apocalypse, which are pretty much ignored for this family’s internal soap-opera drama.
It’s never a good sign when a movie about the end of the world leaves the audience thinking that maybe the apocalypse was all for the best.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2018 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 30, 2018.