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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Monday, September 18, 2023

Darker than Night (1976)

Doing another dive into the stacks of movies that I’ve collected but haven’t watched I stumbled over Darker than Night. This Mexican made movie bills itself as a haunted house/ghost story and quite frankly I was in the mood for one of those.

The movie opens with an elderly woman petting her black cat. We never get to see her face but do watch her tend the garden, knit, and dote on her feline friend. Though it ends when she has an attack of some sort and dies all while the cat watches traumatized. Then we meet what turns out to be our main characters. The four beautiful young women are Ofelia, Aurora, Marta, and Pilar. Turns out that Ofelia is the niece of the woman and has inherited the house as well as everything inside of it. So off they go to check it out.

When they arrive they are greeted with the creepy housekeeper, Sofia, who is clearly not pleased with the disrespect that they show towards the possessions of her former mistress (not in the creepy way but as in the long time employer way). The girls also don’t like the cat, but Ofelia is taking her aunt’s wishes that she takes care of it seriously and it does seem to grow on her. Weird stuff starts to happen though when they hear a voice calling for the cat at night in the garden as well as the house. This gets much creepier when the cat is accidentally locked in the basement and dies. Suddenly there is the apparition of the old woman, and the girls start to be scared to death.

So, is it a ghost or is there something else going on at the house? Also, what is up with the cat’s death? There are many questions that get answered before this one ends and I’m not going to spoil it here in this review. Why? Because I liked this movie quite a bit but the guessing as to what is going on is part of the fun. The guessing game as to if things are supernatural or if it a more mundane and corporeal threat killing off the girls is kept vague until the very end. Sofia at times seems suspicious and it becomes clear that she is taking blame for things that she may not be responsible for. Is she protecting someone? If so, who could it be? I like the mysterious aspects to the plot as it kept me engaged with both the characters and story.

The above is key because I’m sure many horror fans might be annoyed by how long it takes for the movie to get rolling. I will warn you that this is a slow burn to start with not much happening for the first half hour as the characters and situation is setup. After that we get a lot of sneaking around the spooky house building atmosphere before things really kick into gear. But when it does there are plenty of weird noises, moaning, and crying echoing in the darkness to set the mood. This is at times a very creepy movie and I appreciated that they filmmakers leaned into this sort of stuff rather than cheap jump scares. But then again this was the seventies when people put effort into trying to scare the audience so that isn’t too much of a surprise.

To sum things up I did really like Darker than Night. It meanders a bit in the first half, but it makes up for it by keeping us guessing as to what the hell is actually going on. There is the previously mentioned atmosphere as well as a solid ending that mostly answers all the questions we the audience have. It is worth checking this one out. I believe that Vinegar Syndrome just put it out on Blu-Ray, so it isn’t too hard to locate.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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