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The Unexpected Supernatural Horror Movie That's Killing It On Netflix

In the mood for a spooky ghost story with an all-star cast that will have you sleeping with the lights on? Get ready for The Darkness.

The little-seen 2016 fright fest has come creeping into the Netflix Top Ten list with good reason: It packs scares that aim for the gut, an impressively gloomy atmosphere, and (this really can't be overstated) a cast full of absolute ringers.

The flick was co-written and directed by Greg McLean, who also helmed the bonkers thriller The Belko Experiment (written by Guardians of the Galaxy mastermind James Gunn) the same year. Its creepiness quotient is raised by the fact that McLean based the film on a story that was told to him by a friend who experienced first-hand a haunting similar to the one depicted in the movie. It tells the story of a couple who, after vacationing at the Grand Canyon with their teenage children, begin experiencing strange and disturbing supernatural events upon their return home.

To play his leads, McLean enlisted the stars of his 2007 feature Rogue: The great Kevin Bacon (who can be seen starring opposite Amanda Seyfried in David Koepp's psychological horror feature You Should Have Left on VOD) and Radha Mitchell (who you may recognize as Leah Banning from Olympus Has Fallen and London Has Fallen). Bright's Lucy Fry and Gotham's David Mazouz star as their children, and the supporting cast features the likes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Ming-Na Wen, Mad About You's Paul Reiser, Once Upon a Time's Jennifer Morrison, Veep's Matt Walsh, and Last Man Standing's Krista Marie Yu.

Let's illuminate just why The Darkness is killing it on Netflix right now.

What is The Darkness about?

The flick opens near the tail end of an idyllic vacation, as we meet the Taylor family, Peter (Bacon), Bronny (Mitchell), Stephanie (Fry), and Mikey (Mazouz). During their Grand Canyon excursion, the youngest child, Mikey, who is on the autism spectrum, discovers a set of interesting-looking rocks in the interior of a small cave. Intrigued by their markings, he pockets a few and takes them home, unbeknownst to the rest of the family. 

As you might expect, this turns out to be a grave mistake. Weird things start to happen around the house, and each family member begins having strange nightmares involving animals like crows, snakes, and wolves. When Bronny does on online search to try to find out what's happening, she discovers a disturbing answer: The spot they had just visited had once been home to a tribe of Anasazi, who had a tradition of expelling demons by (wait for it) binding them to rocks hidden in caves. Apparently, these demons are determined to bind themselves instead to the souls of children, eventually ushering said children into their world in an event known as "The Darkness."

It is at this point, of course, that things start to get seriously freaky. Mysterious black handprints begin to appear around the house and attempt to choke the life out of Stephanie, the family catches glimpses of demonic figures in mirrors and windows, and a localized fire in Mikey's room opens what appears to be a portal to another dimension. The family finally break down and call in a pair of spiritual healers to help, but they may be too late to stop the Darkness.

Why have you never heard of The Darkness?

The Darkness was produced by Blumhouse, those ever-reliable purveyors of low-budget horror, and it did receive a theatrical release, albeit a limited one. With a production house experienced at marketing small horror films and that sterling cast, you could be forgiven for wondering why it's so underseen — but there are a couple of pretty good reasons.

First, as with a lot of horror flicks that aim squarely for genre audiences, critics didn't dig The Darkness. The film was near-universally panned, which tends to put movies of all stripes behind the 8-ball. It also apparently failed to generate strong word of mouth, scoring only $5 million on its opening weekend, and accumulating only about $11 million over its entire theatrical run.

Its poor performance, though, likely has less to do with anything critics had to say, and much more to do with the Avengers. The Darkness had the distinct misfortune of opening on May 13, 2016 — just one week after Captain America: Civil War, which brought together practically the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe for a massive superhero brawl for the ages, introduced audiences to Tom Holland's Spider-Man, and steamrolled all competition through the month of May and right on into the summer. Heck, not even Iron Man could defeat good old Cap, so The Darkness never stood a chance.

It's now getting its time in the spotlight on Netflix, though, and deservedly so. It may not be high art, but The Darkness is a heck of a lot of fun — a solid Blumhouse effort with an ultra-creepy premise and a remarkable cast. You should probably check it out ... just don't blame us for the ensuing spike in your power bill.