The Dark and The Wicked

The Dark and The Wicked
Director: Bryan Bertino
USA 2020


Siblings Louise and Michael are forced to return to their family farm in rural America to help their mother care for their bedridden and dying father. Once there, they soon realize that their mother is behaving strangely and paranoically, not only due to her husband’s health but also because of something else—something mysterious and sinister. As chilling and inexplicable events unfold, the siblings come to understand that an invisible, malevolent force is haunting their home.


Bertino certainly earned fame and credibility with The Strangers, one of the most well-known and acclaimed home invasion films, successful with both audiences and critics. This 2020 film, released somewhat quietly, in my opinion, confirms the quality of the director’s creative journey and, most importantly, delivers a film as brutal and fierce as rarely seen.

An obligatory premise: The Dark and the Wicked is a film about evil. But not just any evil: an extreme, all-encompassing, merciless evil without hope and infinitely stronger than good. An evil that deceives the senses and dismantles beliefs. The malevolent and evil catharsis into which the viewer is plunged does not revolve around unclear moments needing interpretation; it is evident from the first minutes that the rural setting is contaminated or, more likely, “possessed.”

The director creates tension by perfectly utilizing all the elements of the setting with silences interrupted by the sounds of nature, the bleating of sheep, the clanging of bells, and the creaking doors moved by the wind. The morbidity of zooms, the nervous glances of the protagonists, the gloomy darkness animated by shadows in all locations (both inside and outside) create situations capable of pouring out tons of anguish and discomfort, an at times unbearable weight that constantly feeds on every frame. Certainly, there are a few jump scares (as modern horror trends demand), but they are barely countable on one hand, never trivial, and effective as they are positioned at the right moments and never randomly.

The Dark and the Wicked is not a film to be taken lightly, as it can wound and leave you with ugly scars in hundreds of different ways and for hundreds of different reasons, depending on your emotional state at the time. It is pure supernatural horror, but it is also a film that delves into the characters’ intimacy, dissects it with surgical precision, and, if it manages to be as frightening as only great demonic horror can be, it is never mechanical. Every moment of deep terror (that chills the blood in your veins) has a precise meaning and adds something new to the narrated story.

Bertino still puts the family at the center of the story, but it is neither a bulwark nor a triggering factor of the malevolent presence: it is a fragile barrier of tissue paper, the last illusion, the silent defeat of affections in the face of the inevitability of our finitude. All the actors repay the director’s choice with performances that are always up to par and fitting. The director, for his part, delivers a solid, credible, and highly personal work, even though at times the film may remind you of esteemed titles such as The Wicker Man or The Witch. These similarities are linked to the film’s folkloric imprint and the rural backdrop that supports the screenplay.

I am convinced that with The Dark and the Wicked, due to the gravity of the themes proposed, the sobriety of the staging, and especially the extreme emotional violence with which Bertino conducts his parable on grief and loss, the director can finally be counted among the significant names that have been illuminating the genre for quite some time now.


Michael, tired of the constant apparitions and visions, decides to return home to his family. Once home, he finds his wife and daughters dead. Driven by the madness of grief, he decides to take his own life by slitting his throat, but……

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