The Dark and the Wicked: Minimalist Masterpiece

(Deep Cut Disclaimer: prepare for spoilers galore…).

If you haven’t seen The Dark and the Wicked yet, halt. First, you need to see it because it’s great…also, I’m about to blow every single one of its secrets by obsessively analyzing this shit to death. I’m also going to introduce a new fan theory that I’ve not yet seen mentioned, because I believe there is enough evidence to back it up. One of the many things I admire about Bryan Bertino’s writing and direction is that he doesn’t bother spoon-feeding his viewers–he trusts us to figure things out on our own.

Jumping right in, then.

Whisper-singing a child’s hymn all alone in an unheated outbuilding in the middle of the night, surrounded by mannequins? Nothing creepy here.

We begin with Virginia Straker AKA Mama (Julie Oliver-Touchstone), sewing and chuff-singing a line from that rousing atheist anthem, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. Though it’s never mentioned, I’m assuming that Mama Straker is a seamstress, because nobody outside of a serial killer should be living with that many mannequins. Then again, most seamstresses operate in heated rooms with good lighting, so who knows. Definitely not the case here.

She takes a break to go check on the goats, who sound…restless? I am not a goat maven, but that is what I’m assuming, yes. Stretched across the entrance to the barn is what appears to be a sort of folk art wind chime (note: despite what one reviewer says, those aren’t occult symbols. They’re soda bottles and hunks of scrap iron. It’s a rural waste not, want not thing. Trust me on this), though they act more as a homemade alarm system to alert them to intruders–coyotes, thieves, demons and the like. This is a still night, so the alarm-chimes have no business chiming at all.

Wind chimes are NOT occult symbols. Not even played backwards.

After soothing the goats and checking the alarm chimes, Virginia moves on to cheerier things, namely sitting on the bed with her dying husband and writing about the devil. Presently, a wolf howls and Virginia is clearly freaked. And to prove I’ve watched a whole lot of horror in my life, my first reaction was, “What’s the big deal?” Because let’s face it–if there were as many real life wolves in life as there are in horror movies, they would rule the fucking world. I actually went to the trouble of looking up “wolves in Texas”. Turns out, a wolf howl in Texas would be at least noteworthy, seeing as how wolves were almost completely eradicated. It’s also distressing if you are responsible for a herd of potential wolf chow. But even that wouldn’t explain this face of fear.

Yeah, that’s a little more than wolf-fear.

Simultaneously, the windless alarm chimes start violently and the heretofore suspiciously quiet goats terror-bleat and collide with one another, so you know it’s just another night on the Straker ranch–darkness, isolation, sewing in an unheated room with way too many mannequins (which would be one, in these quarters), some jiveass suspicious goats, chimes that erupt without any forgivable reason, Virginia obsessively chopping vegetables (really, though…that’s a lot of vegetables), a chair idly sliding behind her…and a malefic parasitic being feeding off her husband and fucking with her just for laughs.

Now I’m not going to just indiscriminately dunk on some reviewers who ought to know better–nor will I name names–but as with the “occult” wind chimes, I have seen some very silly assertions. After the first viewing, I read a positive review from a respected reviewer from a west coast outlet, who claims that the entity was based on “Azazel” because of the horned goat skull they zoomed in on during the first segment. I’m only slightly more knowledgeable about demons than I am goats; luckily, I have my handy-dandy Dictionnaire Infernal nearby to research this very sort of thing. Huh. Azazel would be a strange demon to choose, because he’s the scapegoat demon, the demonic embodiment of the literal scapegoats they sacrificed in Leviticus. In fact, he started out as an angel and got kicked out for teaching humans how to make weapons and cosmetics ie kick ass and look good while you’re doing it. In a suspicious parallel to Prometheus, Azazel was cast out of heaven basically for making human’s lives easier…so that would be a weird demon to choose for a horror movie. But even if that were the case, this dude is still way, way, WAY off base, because this is the image of his referenced “goat skull”:

THIS. IS . NOT. A. GOAT.

Baphomet himself doesn’t sport antlers like that. I’m not even sure what does–something deer-ish, I guess–but it goddamn sure isn’t a goat and I laugh hysterically every time I see this image and I really need to stop.

Moving on.

On Monday, Louise (the utterly amazing Marin Ireland) arrives to help nurse her dying father, but instead of hugs or gratitude, Virginia tells her, “I told you not to come”. There are hints throughout the film that Louise is the black sheep foil to Michael’s stoic, hyper-responsible and equally resentful eldest child. Louise is the true prodigal, the child who is driven by genuine remorse and self-recriminations for not coming to her mother’s aid much sooner. She carries herself with the abashed uncertainty of somebody offering too little, too late…and painfully aware of it. As is Michael, who dryly remarks, “Well, look who’s here. It’s superwoman, here to save the day”. Here again, I have to jump in and correct the alarmingly WRONG assumptions out there that this is a close family. No. NO. They’re not. They aren’t close at all. Virginia doesn’t embrace her child in greeting. Michael acknowledges his sister’s presence with a wisecrack…and she responds by playfully kicking his foot. Yep. That is what goes for affection in the Straker household and if that is what passes for tight bonds these days, then maybe my family wasn’t as fucked up as I thought.

A heartfelt Straker family reunion.

It isn’t clear how long Michael has been there, but it is also telling that she asks the ranch hand, Charlie, “You been taking care of my mama?” instead of her brother. One source of their friction is simple communication styles: Louise isn’t afraid to voice uncomfortable truths while self-contained Michael would prefer the whole goddamn subject be dropped:

Michael: Mama looks tired.

Louise: Mama looks like shit.

After a tense wordless dinner, Virginia blows up at them, telling them they were stupid and that she told them not to come. Judging by Louise’s face, this is very out of character for Mama. Once they are out of earshot, Louise wants to talk about the outburst; Michael shuts her down…and then pointedly references his daughters (“the girls are good”) in his passive-aggressive bid to tell her what a shit she was to forget their birthday (or even mention them); he asks her if she’s still working at the post office, to which she replies, “Not anymore…” in an unmistakable, “and it wasn’t a friendly parting, either” tone. Not only does he not know where she’s working, he’s not interested enough to ask anymore about it. And it isn’t just Michael; it comes out that the last time Louise had heard from her parents had been May; they are both wearing jackets and their breath is vaporizing–in Texas–which puts them in late fall, so…say about six months since they’ve even been in contact. Again, it astounds me how many people refer to their “tight bonds” and “closeness”. Not only do they not like each other, they go out of their way to know as little about each other as possible. And when Louise attempts to show vulnerability, grief, guilt, fear or tries to reach out at all, Michael is by turns, sarcastic, harshly impatient and, if all else fails, simply leaves.

Louise: We should’ve done something. Hugged her? Something.

Michael: Yeah. Yeah. Because that would’ve made everything better, probably.

Later, Louise notices the front door has opened; as she carefully walks over to close it, we get a glimpse of just who (what?) has entered (note entire lack of goat horns).

Is it a demon, or…
…the ghost of Tor Johnson?

Sorry, but my mind immediately went to Tor. To be fair, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch.

Meanwhile, the family retreats to their separate corners: Mama shares a bed with dying David, Michael is somewhere and Louise drifts outside to smoke. Not to make too fine a point of it, but it struck me again and again how emotionally unconnected these people are. They are together to support each other but are incapable of reaching out. “Maybe we should’ve hugged her?” Yet when Michael tries to do just that, Virginia rebuffs him and tells him to leave. Not only do they not offer physical comfort, they can’t even look each other in the eye. The conceit of this movie is that evil can’t enter a supportive, loving home; it is because of the lack of love and Virginia’s consequential isolation and grief and loneliness that allows the demon to gain entry.

Nope. Nothing good ever comes from that.

On a more pertinent note, though, is WHY IS VIRGINIA ALWAYS CHOPPING VEGETABLES LATE AT NIGHT? Ah. For the foreshadowing, of course. Any time you see a close up on a knife, scissors, axe, nail gun, knitting needles (it’s coming), it might as well have the label FORESHADOWING. And when they are chopping as slowly and deliberately as Virginia, you know she’s gonna lose a finger. It’s been done…many times. It’s practically a trope. As recently as Richard Stanley’s 2019 Color Out of Space, Joely Richardson absently slices off the tips of two fingers. So Virginia’s gonna lose a finger. I’m actually a bit squeamish about the old finger chop gag, so I was already pre-wincing, when Virginia just “hold my beer’d” the shit out of it and chopped all her fingers off into itty…bitty…pieces…

…and then left the whole chopped finger suey mess out for Michael and Louise to discover, to their obvious abject horror. Frantically, they are left to follow her blood trail to the barn where they find her hanging from a high rafter. Later, Michael will question how she managed to get up there by herself with a chair; I’d say the more pressing question is how the fuck do you hang yourself with one hand? I mean, I suppose it could be done, there are people who manage all sorts of things with only one hand but they by god have time to practice. So unless Virginia is some late-life, one-handed Hangin’ Houdini savant, I’d say demons are afoot.

A clear case of demon-assisted suicide.

Wednesday opens with the sounds of Louise’s deep, rasping sobs. The grief that has plagued Virginia will now be passed on to Michael and Louise–locked up within their own world of guilt and bewilderment, never seeking comfort from the other–with the vortex of pain and loss found within the wasting body of their comatose father, David. Charlie, the ranch hand, will also be infected as he, too, is alone in his grief…as will, eventually, the nurse. For now, the nurse confides in David that she saw Virginia speaking to someone who wasn’t there. She would speak the words to David, but it wasn’t David she was addressing. Which I find curious. Does that mean she was so desperate for companionship that she felt she was speaking to David when actually the demon was using her as a conduit to utter some kind of weirdass incantation, maybe causing him to weaken? David’s illness is never named; the implication is that some evil entity has gone rogue parasite on him and is basically hoovering up his soul.

In a scene that is equal parts creepy and poignant, Louise summons the courage to enter the Den of Mannequins (okay, maybe I’m the one who would have to summon the courage…and then wouldn’t) and discovers that Virginia had been making her a wedding dress. Either that was meant as a very large hint for grandchildren or she knew she wouldn’t be alive to see Louise’s wedding. In either case, it affects Louise profoundly…again, experiencing her grief alone.

So Michael and Louise busy themselves with the workings of the ranch. This is a bit farfetched to me. As somebody who used to work auctions, unless those survivors were hot to take over the operation as a career, they would be burning up the phone lines to auctioneers and livestock buyers…and especially later, when it becomes clear that the place is devil-infested. Call in the auctioneer, clear out and have them send you the check. However, I also know that grieving people aren’t always rational, so I’ll stop being an asshole.

Fun fact: The Dark and the Wicked was shot on Bryan Bertino’s own ranch…which isn’t all ugly, as evidenced by this pic.

Louise, Michael and Charlie drive to Virginia’s pet cemetery, where she buried her favorite goats. Not sure why; maybe to show the expanse of the ranch and prove that isn’t as ugly as it is around the house. Louise, still freshly traumatized, wonders aloud what could’ve caused her mother to go chop suey on her own hand and hang herself, but Michael immediately tries to shut her down and drives off, leaving Charlie to comfort Louise and to give both of them an opportunity to go on a long walk. Once again–and I know this is getting repetitious, but it’s important–it is Charlie, the unrelated farmhand, who comforts Louise, not her brother. This was never a close family and it is in times of crisis when a dysfunctional family either pulls together or falls apart..and leaves an emotional/psychological/spiritual vacuum for evil to thrive.

Boo.

Later, as Louise showers, she opens the curtain to comatose David, fuck-eyed and pissing himself. Generally, I’m pretty hostile to jumpscares, but in fairness, it is because of the bullshit lazy way in which the less imaginative of horror creators use them–Bertino relies more on creeping dread and frightening imagery, so I can indulge this one jumpscare, especially since it is used at least within context of the scene. Huddled in the corner weeping, she calls out for Michael…and of course, David isn’t there. To be fair, Michael isn’t entirely unsympathetic; he even asks if she wants to talk about it, but Louise is embarrassed and angry with herself and retreats to the porch to smoke.

Meanwhile, Michael finds Virginia’s creepy-ass diary, in which it is clear that Virginia believes there is an evil entity killing David and fucking with her in the meantime. Just to make things clear, the final line of the diary is “Devil devil devil”, which cracked up MB, for some weird reason; the scene ends with music that sounds exactly like the sort of low-pitched laugh a devil would have and that cracked me up. Which proves we’re soul mates or at least ill-suited for anybody else.

Yep. This definitely makes the list.

Louise and Michael meet with the coroner who hands them a bag of small metal crucifixes he found in Virginia’s pocket, which puzzles them because she was an atheist…as were the rest of them. Seeing as how most atheists tend not to believe in the devil any more than they believe in God, it doesn’t take much of a mental leap to see a connection. Later Louise is tending to David when a fucking spider runs out of his mouth. I’m actually one of those rare people who does not have arachnophobia; in fact, spider-killing is outlawed in this house because it’s unnecessary and mean…but if they started coming out of people’s mouths, all bets would be off. Michael’s sanity is no longer being spared, either. After a rogue bedroom light awakens Michael, he glances out the window and sees his mother…levitating. And now I can add grinning, levitating old dead women to my ever-expanding list of “Shit That Makes my Skin Crawl”.

And it’s only gonna get uglier, as Louise discovers waking up to find somebody’s played clown with her face…and David holding the lipstick. Then the phone rings with the first of a series of fucked up phone calls–that’s what you get for keeping a landline–starting with Virginia “I-told-you-so”-ing about not coming, which is pretty obnoxious, even for a dead woman, leaving Louise to do the only reasonable thing: shrink into a corner with fear and paranoia.

Then comes the priest…

Definitely NOT Father Merrin.

Having grown up in the deep south–which does bear some cultural similarities with Texas–my first thought was, what the hell is a priest doing in Texas? I mean, yes, many Mexican-Americans are Catholic, but most white folks are staunchly protestant, usually of the Baptist variety, so that immediately got my attention (apologies to all the Catholic white people out there who no doubt are saying, “Not alllllllllll white Texans are protestant…”). In any case, I didn’t trust him or the metal crucifixes he hands out so freely. Not one damn bit. It is my contention that this shitass priest (a memorable Xander Berkeley) is not on the side of angels, here. In fact, I think he may have been the conduit for some demonoid to gain entry. And yes, I have reasons.

Make that openly sneering.

First–the crucifixes. He hands Michael a single crucifix; Virginia had dozens hidden in her pocket. Which tells me that for an atheist, she sure was seeing a lot of this priest. Michael and Louise show him Virginia’s diary; he reads a passage with just the slightest shade of mockery. In fact, his whole demeanor is faintly…irreverent? Contemptuous? I can’t quite name it, but he does not give off the somber signs of a priest who has come to comfort the grieving. In fact, it’s almost as if he has come to enjoy the suffering of dearly departed’s family…but straining mightily not to openly gloat.

Either way, Michael doesn’t give even a single shit for him. He accuses the priest of putting these bullshit notions of devils into his mother’s head; while more diplomatic, Louise concurs. The priest counters that she was alone and afraid and nobody was there for her–which is a pretty effective weapon to lob at guilt-ridden, grieving children, but it also is a sort of admission: without the support of her family, she was alone and vulnerable. Easy devil pickings. At their protestations that Virginia didn’t believe in the devil, he counters, “It doesn’t matter whether you believe. Do you think a wolf cares if you believe he’s a wolf? Not if he finds you alone in the woods”. This is especially telling, because Virginia was obviously shaken when she heard the lone howl of a wolf; later, Louise also hears a wolf howl, which as I pointed out earlier, is pretty goddamn improbable in Texas. He then adds that he just told her the truth; Michael retorts, “Yeah. Your truth”. Now, openly sneering, the priest says, “The same could be said about you and yours” and again, guilt-whips them with “She was all alone and afraid; I guess you know that now”. As he leaves, Michael says, “You really believe the devil’s out there?” and he replies, “He’s not out there; he’s already here”.

I knew that shitass priest was no good.

But I wasn’t yet completely convinced. Not even after his apparition appears in their back yard at 3 AM telling them to come outside and play. The phone rings; Michael orders Louise not to answer it. She goes one better and disconnects it…which is unfortunate for Charlie, because he’s calling to tell them that a Louise doppelganger she-bitch has emerged in his room and is cutting herself to pieces and speaking some demonese dialect that ultimately drives him to blow his brains out…which considering, probably isn’t the worst option.

(It just occurred that this is the only time you see a gun in this film, which, considering its setting, may be the most unrealistic thing about this movie)

Never ask a demon what it wants; they might tell you

The next day, Louise calls the number the priest left for her. While his voice is unmistakable, he claims that he doesn’t know what she’s talking about, that’s never been to Thurber, Texas–he is in a hotel room in Chicago. Louise insists they met, reminding him that she was Virginia Straker’s daughter–the priest, obviously upset, said, “Is this some kind of a joke?” and continues that he had a daughter named Louise who killed herself…and that she sounds just like her.

Now here comes my fan theory, which I”m claiming because I haven’t seen it anywhere else: years ago, Virginia had an extramarital affair with the priest and Louise was the result, which would obviously be a source of shame to her. But since this demon/entity can clearly shape-shift, I believe that he came to visit Virginia in the guise of the long ago fallen priest. While loneliness and grief were the precipitating factors to bring about the demon, it is temptation, guilt and shame which seals her fate.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Michael and Louise call in a doctor because they’ve come to the same wise conclusion of fuck this shit, I’m bouncing…please take daddy back to the hospital with you. Unfortunately, the doc takes his Hippocratic oath a little too seriously and refuses to move him, saying he would be dead before they reached the highway. Also unfortunately, is that I’m about to reveal my flabby character by asking if he’s that damn close to death, then WHAT DOES IT MATTER? For fuck’s sake. I mean, do no harm and all, but let’s fucking triage here. Had it been me, I would have formed my own spontaneous mini death panel and said, “Either you take him or we take him or send us a nurse to cover the rest of the part-time nurse’s schedule because this isn’t doing a goddamn thing to help him and it’s killing us”. Ruthless? Okay. But I tend not to be overly sentimental about people who are going to die sooner or later dying…slightly sooner. I mean, fuck this doctor. I would drive dad to the hospital. Besides, I can’t help but notice that he’s not hooked up to a monitor of any kind, so…really? Anyway. Suspend the disbelief. Suspend the disbelief. Suspend the disbelief…

This is the actor Michael Zagst, doing his damndest to make the role of David Straker more complex and memorable than a plank of wood with a beard. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a single spoken line, which means that unless they consider coughing and the occasional gag lines, then he probably didn’t get paid nearly as much as the rest of the cast. So this is my tribute to you, Michael Zagst, for giving an electrifying performance of a soul-sucked comatose demon snack. I hope Bertino bent SAG pay scale rules for your sake.

Of course, it would be a lot harder for me to be such a hardass if I were confronted by this sweet, soulful nurse. She goes on a sort of bad news/good news soliloquy that she believes there is true evil that can consume you but that she believed there was real love here…with the added tweak that there was nothing worse than a soul dying alone. Jesus. Pain in the ass ethical kind angelic women are the worst. Deeply affected by her kindness juju, Michael muses a while until he is accosted by a mutilated goat. Two things here: 1) now I really hate that shitass demon and 2) to the reviewer who insists that this entire movie is psychological horror and not paranormal at all, then explain this shit:

Happy innocent goats.
Scape goats.

Rather than call the cops so they can file a report and at least collect on insurance (suspend it, Fio!), Michael and Louise dispose of the poor goaties in a very unhappy bonfire. All but a handful were slaughtered…which gives them even less reason to stay, but Michael was (for NOW) affected by the nurse and commits to by god keeping the few left alive. As he heads towards the barn, Louise begs to come with him; no, she has to stay with David. She cries out, “I’m scared!” to which he replies, “Me too.” Which proves that he isn’t completely incapable of empathy…as long as it’s happening to him, too. No. I don’t like Michael…for a very good, imminent reason.

Something I didn’t catch the first time I watched The Dark and the Wicked is that, repeatedly, throughout the film, Michael speaks of wanting to “feel something”. At least twice in phone calls to his wife–whom he clearly loves, so his emotional numbness isn’t universal–once to the nurse and once to Louise. And I’m still not completely sure I understand what this means. Since he always says it within the context of “coming back”, why is he so desperate to feel something? Does he mean for his family or the place itself? My instinct is that they had crap childhoods and he closed himself off–rather than face the pain, he just wouldn’t acknowledge any of his feelings…hence his reluctance to come back. Also, he’s a bit of a moral coward (coming up); it takes a lot of guts to confront painful memories. Louise, on the other hand, may seem as if she’s an emotional wreck, but she’s not afraid to ask the hard questions–to which Michael almost invariably shuts her down rather than answer–and in the end, she is the one who sticks it out. That is my theory, I don’t feel as strongly about this as I do my priest theory, but there it is.

While Michael is tending the mama goat and the adorable little goatlets in the barn, Louise lies in bed with David, reading her mother’s diary, which can’t be good for the nerves. The windless wind chimes suddenly clang just as his wife Becky calls, so Michael pulls out a dainty little knife to defend himself. It reminds me of that scene in The Babysitter when Cole is considering himself slick by sawing away at his bindings with a tiny knife.

POCKET KNIFE…BITCHES!

So not only is this the most gun-lite movie in the history of Texas settings, it also features strangely sensible knives…that still function admirably, as will be proven later. In the meantime, it does nothing to stop his dead mother from approaching. So the corollary to what is creepier than a dead, grinning, levitating old woman is a dead, grinning, rapidly-decomposing and nekkid mama. Yikes.

But instead of sticking it into Head Demonoid aka Dead Mama, Michael winds up on the ground with his knife to his own throat and barely manages to pull it away. Suffice to say, any time the camera focuses on a potentially lethal object for more than a second, you can count on seeing it again. For now, Michael is granted a reprieve. He returns to the house, so batshit with fear that all he can do is sit on the bed, bug-eyed and rocking himself like a lunatic seconds away from screaming.

Still, you’d think he’d tell Louise. Better yet, tell her to help him throw David into the truck, drop him at the hospital dead or alive and never, ever return. If he had, then she might not have to endure the Big Bad himself, creeping in, sitting on the bed, chuffing and growling just as you would imagine a demon would, just as Virginia had described in her diary. But instead of screaming for Michael, she lies there, whimpering and frozen with fear and this is exactly what happens when communication breaks down in a family–each one, metaphorically or literally, is forced to face their demons alone.

To her credit, Louise tries. She whips around to literally face her demon and the bed is empty, because David has his own problems.

A harsh, demon-y voice orders her to RUN AWAY, and she violently awakens. Thank God, just a dream…then she finds a claw mark on David’s throat. Before she even has time to recover from this, she realizes that Michael isn’t around. Instead, Charlie’s granddaughter, an angelic-faced young girl, arrives and informs Louise that he is dead. Stricken, confused and terrified, she tells the girl that she’s glad she’s here and to come inside, when Charlie’s granddaughter, with a beatific smile, asks Louise if she could “smell him”. And I swear sweet Jesus, this child scared me more than dead grinning mamas and growling demons and spider-mouths and everything else combined when she exults in a kind of horrowshow rapture, “He’s rotting!”

Our Lady of Decomp

Thank jesus god, she is merely an apparition and disappears, which gives Louise enough time to discover an even bigger horror: in one of the biggest dick moves in douchebag coward history, Michael has fucked off. Don’t get me wrong–he’s not a coward for fucking off…but he’s a fucking weasel for not telling her, because “I knew you’d stay”. After several viewings, I’ve decided he doesn’t mean that he knew he wouldn’t be able to talk her into leaving; he means that he knew that she wouldn’t leave him alone and so he could dump the horror onto her and it won’t be his problem…and because he doesn’t give a shit what happens to her. He makes that pretty clear when a distraught Louise wails, “But you’re my brother! You’re all I have” and he replies with savage cruelty, “I love Becky. I love my girls”…in other words, I don’t give a shit about you.

Yeah, I kind of hate Michael.

Meanwhile, the nurse has arrived and has fallen under the evil sway. And since she is knitting, it goes without saying that nothing good will come from having those pointy needles in her hands. Sure enough, Louise discovers the nurse knit-stabbing herself in the face. She screams at Louise for not listening to Him and attacks her, knocking her unconscious. Then the nurse jabs the needles into both eyes–because of course, she did–and dies in a sort blasphemous rapture.

Regulation 947, part A of Horror Movie Regulations: knitting needles and like instruments must, at some point, be implemented for eyeball removal.

Michael, thinking he’s pulled a fast one, arrives home to find his wife has cut the throats of his daughters and then her own. Since they are his world, Michael uses his wee pocket knife to cut his own throat (as required by knife foreshadowing), then PSYCHE! As he’s bleeding out, he realizes that the image of his wife and daughters was a little fuck-you gift from the demon for trying to outsmart him and maybe even a little karma. By the time his living wife and daughters arrive, it’s too late.

By the time Louise regains consciousness, it is already nighttime and because she somehow still has a mind left, she apologizes to her father that she has to go. After taking a spill down the porch stairs, she hears David coughing raggedly and, because Louise has twice the balls of Michael, she can’t bring herself to abandon him. In a genuinely tender moment, she promises her father than she won’t leave him, even as she hears Michael calling for her from the yard. Louise isn’t fooled and fiercely orders the Michael apparition to stay away. It becomes apparent that David is drawing his last breaths and out of equal parts grief and terror, she begs him not to go. He doesn’t listen. Devastated, she hears her mother singing. She lets her guard down…and the demon grabs her.

I’ve read several reviews in which the critic mentions the themes of grief and loneliness, but I’ve come to realize that The Dark and the Wicked could also be seen as an allegory for unresolved anger and pain in dysfunctional families. David, of course, is too far gone, but Virginia could have told them why they shouldn’t have come. Even if they thought she was crazy, at least she would give them a fucking clue. Michael is so emotionally locked down and clearly resentful that he can’t even feel anything for his extended family anymore. Louise is the only one who develops as a character and in a morbid way, achieves a sort of fucked up redemption by staying with her father. Throughout the movie are subtle signs that Louise is a bit of a black sheep, the irresponsible, self-centered younger sibling. She is late arriving, she hasn’t called her nieces on their birthday, she hints that she was fired from her job at the post office. Yet it is the grimly duty-bound older son who abandons his father; Louise stays with David, tries to protect him from the evil and even with the sounds and signs of an imminent demon attack, Louise tells David in his final moments that she loves him…if, as the nurse said, there is nothing worse than a soul to die alone, Louise has attained salvation.

Having said that, she still dies and probably goes to hell, but at least she is a better person for it and I’m only half kidding.

Whew. Okay. That will be the last Deep Cut for a while. I think it’s time for an installment of Glorious Shit…something realllly stupid and fun: Evilspeak.

–Fio

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