Home Video Hovel: I Will Follow You into the Dark, by Sarah Brinks
Mischa Barton’s character in this film, Sophia, admits to being an over achiever. In some ways so is I Will Follow You Into The Dark. I will never fault a movie for being ambitious. Even failed ambition should be appreciated for its effort. What I will fault a movie for is not knowing what it is. I Will Follow You Into The Dark tries to be three things and never fully succeeds at any of them. It is most successful as a romantic drama. It tries hardest to be a horror film. Lastly it is also a little bit of an art piece and a Terrence Malick rip off. The romantic plot of Sophia opening her heart up to finding love and potentially losing it again is well done. Where the movie falls apart is all the lame attempts at supernatural hauntings interspersed through the film.
I Will Follow You Into The Dark‘s plot is that Sophia loses her father to illness only six months after losing her mother to cancer. He was a minister and admits to Sophia on his death bed that he has lost his faith when he lost his wife. Sophia takes this very hard and after a scathing eulogy she falls into a depression. She is afraid to love anyone again because she knows how much it hurts to lose those you love until she literally runs into Adam, played by Ryan Eggold. They “meet-cute” and as Adam walks her back to her car they pass his apartment building, which also happens to be one of the “most haunted buildings in the city”. So they take a haunted tour and fall for each other. The first night that Sophia spends at Adam’s apartment she wakes up to find him gone. There is a trail of blood from the bed to the elevator to the top floor of the building. When they can’t find him, Sophia and Adam’s roommate, Astrid, call the police. When the police arrive they can find no blood and no sign of Adam. So like any good horror movie plot, a group of good looking twenty-somethings go on to the obviously haunted top floor and look for Adam. Surprise, they find ghosts and haunted stuff up there.
I mentioned that this film is a bit of a Malick rip off and what I mean is that similar to a Malick film there are radical time jumps in the film and meandering shot of Sophia and Adam in a life they haven’t lived and transition shots of time-lapse photography of stars and water and lighting. Unlike a Malick film these techniques are not used to really tell the story or make a larger point about life and love and time. Again, I applaud the ambition but was left ultimately feeling empty by it.
The messages in this film are a subtle as a jack-hammer. There are long speeches about how there is no God and how loss of faith can make you vulnerable to other more dangerous supernatural elements. What is a shame is that the film really takes no stance on any of that. Sophia never finds God, never accepts that a loss of faith is okay in the face of all the loss she has felt, or that the after-world is even real. Much like the genre problems the film suffers from, it also suffers from complete lack of conviction. If Sophia had re-found her faith or completely shut herself off to it in the end then at least it would have been satisfying but instead you are left in limbo which is ultimately, incredibly underwhelming.
I am left reviewing the film that I saw but I would really like to see this movie without all the horror stuff tacked on. I genuinely wanted Sophia and Adam to be happy. Sophia is emotionally broken and Adam seems to be the perfect person to help her learn to live and love again. I was engaged with the film when that was drive of the story. Unfortunately those moments are undercut by a spooky sound or a rocking chair moving on its own. The real horror part of the movie kicks off in the last 52 minutes of the film, wherein they abandon the the film we had been watching for the first hour. It felt like an unfortunate bait and switch.
The movie isn’t terrible, it is just incomplete and unsatisfying. The performance are fine for what they have to work with and the film actually looks great. I don’t make the Malick comparison lightly; it is beautifully lit and shot, but what you are stuck watching is a disappointment. This film had a lot of potential. It is a shame it never lived up to it. Writer and director Mark Edwin Robinson has only made three films, each of which he has written and directed. Having only seen this one I think he could benefit from directing someone else’s work. He knows how to make a beautiful film, just not write one.