Más Negro que la Noche

2014, R, 90 min. Directed by Henry Bedwell. Starring Zuria Vega, Adriana Louvier, Eréndira Ibarra, Ona Casamiquela, José María Torre, Margarita Sanz, Lucía Guilmáin.

REVIEWED By William Goss, Fri., Oct. 3, 2014

"You scared me!" is a sentiment all-too-frequently repeated among the characters of Más Negro que la Noche (Darker Than Night), though unlikely to be uttered in turn by its audience. While we can't speak to the merits of the 1975 Mexican original, this remake is a regrettably routine catalog of dusty, haunted-house tropes.

After the passing of her Aunt Ofelia (Guilmáin), young Greta (Vega) comes to inherit her decrepit estate, its old maid (Sanz), and an especially pesky cat whose black fur lends the film its title. Naturally, Greta moves in with three shrewish friends (Louvier, Ibarra, Casamiquela) and a philandering boyfriend (Torre) in tow, and it isn't long before these party-hearty kids are spying shadowy figures amid flickering lights as they wander down lengthy hallways.

Director Henry Bedwell knows the drill when it comes to invoking archetypal atmosphere, assisted in no small part by Marc Bellver’s moody lensing and Joan Valent’s ominous score. Drawing evident inspiration from well-regarded predecessors like The Innocents and The Haunting, the look and feel are so spot-on that one wonders if Bedwell doesn’t count among Guillermo del Toro’s acolytes responsible for such superior recent ghost stories as The Orphanage.

Alas, after a while, what might have been admirably old-fashioned turns disappointingly old-hat as creaky music boxes and nightmarish fake-outs become par for the course between sepia-toned flashbacks. Greta and company startling one another trumps any prolonged attempt at tension, and the whole lot of them are so superficially characterized that the inevitable dispatches that tend to arrive with any dark and stormy climax are easily welcomed.

It even gets to the point where the maid's increasingly sudden appearances are practically played for laughs. Between her and that darn cat, Más Negro comes dangerously close to succeeding as an astutely crafted genre parody, yet Bedwell instead settles for fashioning a horror show that is equally polished, proficient, and pedestrian.

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Más Negro que la Noche, Henry Bedwell, Zuria Vega, Adriana Louvier, Eréndira Ibarra, Ona Casamiquela, José María Torre, Margarita Sanz, Lucía Guilmáin

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