Directed by Robert Fuest
Produced by Albert Fennell and Brian Clements
Written by Brain Clements and Terry Nation
AND SOON THE DARKNESS is regarded as a minor cult classic of 70’s British horror movies and now, after finally seeing it for myself I can see why. It’s a neat, effective little horror/suspense movie that gets the job done with a subtle, intelligent script and solid acting. It’s my kind of horror movie as the situation is one that could plausibly happen and the characters behave as I can see actual people in such a situation would act and as such I can take the movie much more seriously than say, the brain dead 2010 remake of AND SOON THE DARKNESS. But that’s another review. Let’s get back to this one.
Jane (Pamela Franklin) and Cathy (Michele Dotrice) are two young and very pretty English girls on holiday, biking through the French countryside. They’re best friends but they have very different idea of how they want to spend their holiday. Jane’s insistent they stay on schedule and she’s constantly consulting her stack of maps and checking their time against their itinerary. Cathy wants to slowpoke it, take their time and enjoy the local color.
Part of that local color is Paul (Sandor Eles) a handsome young French man who catches Cathy’s eye in a café the two girls stop at briefly to get directions. They go further on up the road and Paul passes them on his motorcycle, only to stop at a roadside cemetery. In a blatant attempt to kill time and wait for Paul to catch up to them, Cathy insists that the girls stop to sunbathe at the side of the road. This leads to a quarrel where Cathy tells Jane she’s fed up with being bossed around and that she’s going to have some fun. Jane leaves Cathy and continues on by herself, stopping at another café a little ways up the road. After a while, when she’s cooled off, she goes back for Cathy.
Except Cathy’s gone. Jane finds her bicycle but except for that, there’s no sign of Cathy at all. Jane frantically searches for her with no luck. She runs into Paul, who claims to be a police detective and offers to help. He certainly is more willing to do so than the local gendarme (John Nettleton) who treats Cathy’s disappearance with a laid-back casualness that frustrates Jane to no end. The locals are of no help because Jane doesn’t know any French and so can’t tell them what’s wrong. And then it turns out that Paul has disturbingly graphic knowledge of a girl who a couple of years ago was raped and murdered near the same spot where Cathy disappeared…
If you have any knowledge of the careers of the writers and director of this movie then you know these guys aren’t amateurs. Robert Fuest directed the two classic “Dr. Phibes” movies. Brian Clements was a producer and main script writer of “The Avengers” as well as writing so many other classic British TV series and movies such as “Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter” which he also directed. Terry Nation created The Daleks and if I have to tell you who they are then you’re in the wrong place. He also created several notable British science fiction TV series including one of my favorites; “Blake’s 7”
Add to this the considerable acting talent of Pamela Franklin who starred in what I consider the second best haunted house movie ever made; “The Legend of Hell House” and was a standout in “The Prime of Miss Jean Brody” where she played the intellectually and sexually precocious Sandy. Pamela Franklin had a good career back in the 60’s and 70’s and if you see her name in the credits of a movie, watch it. She’s a fine actress with terrifically expressive eyes who knows exactly what she’s doing in front of a camera and it’s a treat to watch her work.
The movie also is fun to watch because despite the title, 100% of AND SOON THE DARKNESS takes place during the daytime in broad daylight. The events of the movie play out in the course of one day and just because it all takes place during the daylight hours doesn’t make it any less scary or suspenseful. Increasing the suspense is Jane’s inability to communicate with anybody except the two people she suspects of having taken her friend. It’s a smart move by the director to not subtitle when French is spoken and so as the audience we can share in Jane’s growing frustration and paranoia at her situation.
So should you see AND SOON THE DARKNESS? I recommend so highly. It doesn’t have graphic violence or gore but if you’re looking for a nifty little horror/suspense thriller that will keep you guessing right up until the end of the movie, this is for you. It’s currently available for streaming on Netflix so enjoy.