With the horror genre venturing ever further into the extreme, the challenge for filmmakers is either to come strong or try something new—half-measures won’t get the job done. The Hostel knock-off Turistas, about a band of pretty Americans beachcombers snared in a sinister Brazilian organ-harvesting operation, is a perfect case in point: It has no new angle on the torture-porn genre, isn’t nearly as disturbing in its darkest moment as anything in Hostel, and seems content with its mild fusion of bikinis and mayhem. Now comes the sub-Turistas thriller And Soon The Darkness, which simply moves the action to the inland beauty of neighboring Argentina, and does even less to justify its existence. What’s the point of exploitative trash if it’s neither exploitative nor trashy?
An updating of an obscure 1970 British film, And Soon The Darkness follows party girls Amber Heard and Odette Yustman as they break off from a biking tour and wheel into one of those small foreign towns where the locals glower and give poor directions. As the wilder, more sexually aggressive of the two, Yustman is the most vulnerable to kidnapping, in keeping with the genre’s dictates. When she makes the mistake of teasing the men at a shady local bar and goes missing, Heard enlists another American (Karl Urban) to help look for her, circumventing a local police detective who doesn’t seem anxious to solve the backlog of missing women on his docket.
And Soon The Darkness drinks in all the picture-postcard beauty a few hours’ worth of helicopter rental can buy, with sweeping shots of mountains, rivers, and vistas carved by God’s hand, but once it gets down to business, it could take place anywhere. Co-writer/director Marcos Efron either doesn’t much care about the whodunit factor, or does an exceptionally poor job of fooling the audience: The people behind the rash of kidnappings are exactly the ones viewers would expect. What unfolds isn’t that tense, that nightmarish, or that anything.
Key features: Deleted scenes that were deleted for good reason; a three-way commentary track featuring Efron, his editor, and his cinematographer; and footage from Efron’s video diary.