Apparently based on the Death Cab for Cutie song of the same name, I Will Follow You Into the Dark is one sappy sack of shit. It’s got more going for it than most low-budget horror flicks – like above-average production values – but never manages to really engage or live up to the challenging ideas it presents. The film attempts to address faith, grief, and a ride-or-die romance against the backdrop of a haunted apartment building. Unfortunately, it’s bogged down by a few aspects – the most glaring being its poor script and star Mischa Barton.
The former teen star plays Sophia Monet, a woman stuck in an extended period of grief after her parents die six months apart. That’s enough to screw anyone up, but Sophia gets an epic case of the blues that makes her stay inside with the curtains closed for most her waking hours. In a rare trip outside her home one day, she meets Adam (Ryan Eggold). He’s the opposite of Sophia – an extrovert who seems to have a perpetual grin wiped across his handsome face. The two hit it off and Adam’s influence helps Sophia come outta her shell. Then one night he disappears, leaving behind a trail of blood.
Adam happens to live in a haunted apartment building that used to be an institution of some kind. Legend says many of the patients simply vanished and the top floor is still off limits. That’s where detective Sophia believes Adam has been taken. Along with two of her friends and Adam’s roommate, Sophia ventures to the restricted top floor. This is where it turns into a bland haunted house movie. Prior to this point, the film plays out like a bland romance.
There are a few cheap jump scares thrown in to let you know it’s still a horror flick, and one interesting story note that I don’t believe they really fleshed out good enough. We’re led to believe that Sophia is being targeted by malevolent spirits for some reason – it’s just never explained why. Or how come these spirits live in Adam’s apartment building. I don’t think I missed anything, so why deliberately force a convoluted plot?
Sophia goes through a lot of shit in the film and Barton doesn’t really have the chops for it. She delivers most of her lines in a painfully conscious manner that doesn’t sound the least bit natural. Her expressions seem to peak in the “look confused” area. The scenes she shares with Ryan Eggold aren’t as bad, since his talent manages to distract us from Barton’s “duhhh” face. I don’t wanna be too mean – in short I just didn’t buy Barton in the role. Nobody suffering from grief has hair that perfect.
Using a preposterous method we’ve seen in other horror/sci-fi films before, Sophia pursues Adam into the titular darkness. Ho boy, this is a sugary ending. The sentiment is nice, but certainly not earned. IWFYITD barely grazes the surfaces of the issues it wishes to deal with. It sports some very nice production value and one sequence on the top floor is pretty intense (nice use of flashlights), but the film never believably pulls off horror or romance. The tone and atmosphere are all over the place, then become overdone when attempting to focus on a genre. Writer/director Mark Edward Robinson tries to stuff a lot into his film, but it’s an insipid, predictable feast that’s ultimately flavorless.
I Will Follow You Into the Dark opens in limited release October 11.