The notion of holidaymakers in peril is one that has been a fixture of horror and thriller cinema for generations. Often, these characters are privileged folk who are out of their depth in a foreign land, miles away from anyone who can help. That’s certainly the case for the posh British duo cycling around rural France in the 1970s tale And Soon the Darkness, which is being released on a new Blu-ray disc in the UK.
Free-spirited Cathy (Michele Dotrice) and the more uptight Jane (Pamela Franklin) are making their way around the countryside when they stop at a small town café. Cathy immediately catches the eye of a handsome Frenchman (Sandor Elès) and is clearly a little disappointed when Jane encourages them to leave town and ride through more “fantastically boring” scenery. After a spat at the roadside, Jane goes off alone but, when she returns, Cathy has gone missing and Jane suspects that the stranger might have something to do with it.
It’s a conventional thriller setup and what’s baffling is how poorly executed that story is by director Robert Fuest, working from a script by Brian Clemens and Terry Nation. There’s never a shred of intrigue in the mystery, even as elements of history are introduced regarding a previous kidnapping and murder in the area. Characters are established, with question marks right above their heads, but none of them are given any sort of texture to suggest why they might be involved.
And Soon the Darkness is simply insufficiently thrilling to carry off its rather sparse storytelling. It’s a slow-moving film and one that never has the injection of tense set-pieces required to keep the narrative moving. Pamela Franklin is a decent enough leading lady, but she is too often left to carry every element of the narrative weight, not receiving any help from the story itself.
By the time the film does wind towards a conclusion, it’s one that it never feels as if it has earned. There’s a nastiness to the climax that’s entirely out of whack with what has come before. The final revelation is not necessarily predictable, but it does suffer from the fact that Fuest’s movie has done absolutely nothing to make its central mystery actually mean anything to anyone.
Overall, And Soon the Darkness stands as a decidedly disappointing horror tale with very little to make it in any way memorable. Despite a handful of solid performances, the movie squanders its intriguing setting and enjoyable concept for a bland thriller narrative that is impossible to get behind. The new Blu-ray transfer for the film looks good but, unless you’re already a fan, this is one that can safely be left on the shelves at your local supermarket.
Dir: Robert Fuest
Scr: Brian Clemens, Terry Nation
Cast: Pamela Franklin, Michele Dotrice, Sandor Elès, Hana Maria Pravda, John Nettleton, Claude Bertrand
Prd: Brian Clemens, Albert Fennell
DOP: Ian Wilson
Music: Laurie Johnson
Country: UK, France
Run time: 99 mins
And Soon the Darkness is available on a new DVD and Blu-ray in the UK now.