Directed by Jaume Balagueró

Dimension, in release

Forgetting he was nearly killed there by a cult 40 years earlier, expat Mark (Iain Glen) moves his unhappy brood (including Lena Olin and Anna Paquin) to a Spanish cottage where the lights have minds of their own and someone is always lurking in the dark. A Catalan version of The Shining, Jaume Balagueró’s overwrought thesis on nyctophobia hauls in all the major elements of the Kubrick classic: a remote house harboring a violent past, dead children roaming the halls, a son prone to catatonia, a father veering close to the edge, an old woman decomposing in the nude, even intertitles announcing the day of the week with an aural thud. Though Balagueró fills the film with foreboding imagery, using extreme close-ups of every object in the house and emphasizing background penumbra, it’s impossible to ever get a sense of true terror when the orally fixated shadows under the bed eat pencils and characters utter lines like “The darkness is very wise.” Moments hint at a metaphoric statement on child abuse, but the film proves mainly to be a commentary on poor electrical wiring. Having spent nearly three years gathering dust in the Miramax vault, Darkness appeared destined for an ignominious straight-to-video death before the recent splash of J-horror hits made it seem halfway marketable. Rarely has a film’s tagline been more fitting: “Some secrets should never come to light.” DAVID BLAYLOCK