Those demons are rum old sorts, the way they’ve been wreaking havoc in the multiplex and on DVD for the last five years. Anyone would think there’s some beastly plan afoot to take over the world and usher in the Apocalypse by desensitising people to possession via popular entertainment, or something convoluted like that.
I’ve never been a fan of the demonic possession film, really, partly because the very premise has always seemed a bit laughably silly to me. You’d think the necessity of accepting demons as a credible threat would limit the appeal of these films to religious audiences, but either it doesn’t or there are a lot more seriously religious people out there than I assume, because even the religious friends I have tend to believe in God and Jesus but not in demons with insidious agendas. On the other hand, I don’t believe in vampires or ghosts either, and that doesn’t stop me getting into the scares when they’re on screen, so maybe I just have a stick up my arse.
Either way, In the Dark is actually one of the stand-out demonic possession films of recent years. It introduces us to professional skeptic Veronica Carpenter (Lynn Justinger), who has investigated dozens of supposed hauntings and found only three that she couldn’t reliably demonstrate to be of mundane origin. We learn, too, that for her skeptical approach she is considered the best ghostbuster in the business; whereas the credulous will slap a “confirmed haunting” label on everything, Veronica feels the need to actually investigate and, if she says you’re dealing with the supernatural, then you’d better believe you are.
Of course, after getting all of its introductory business out of the way, the film follows Veronica on one of those genuinely supernatural cases. Maybe it would have been interesting to see her expose a fraud or something like that, or maybe audiences would sigh and say it had all gone a bit Scooby-Doo. Even Scooby-Doo itself deals with actual, non-fraudulent cases of the supernatural these days. Damn those demons and damn their agenda, because In the Dark and Scooby-Doo both get a bit silly once the real-life monsters start appearing. In the Dark impresses with a long, slow build-up carried mostly by dialogue. Like Billy Senese’s impressive indie horror Closer to God, it gives its audience credit for their intelligence and relies on dialogue and believably acted characters for its slow-burning scares. So it’s really rather disappointing to find the final ten or fifteen minutes given over to an encounter with a my-name-is-Legion-voiced, black-veined demon who does the whole Drag Me to Hell bit but misses the joke. It’s a giving-in to the sort of hackneyed devices that the film up to that point had avoided very successfully, but even then it isn’t quite enough to diminish everything that the film gets right. It’s just that it could have been much better.