Saturday, October 20, 2012

Final Girl Film Club - And Soon the Darkness (1970)

Throughout October, Cody will be participating in the Final Girl Film Club SHOCKtober event with articles posted on a different movie every day of the month.


Today, the original version of And Soon the Darkness.



Responsible brunette Jane and her wilder blonde friend Cathy are two young British girls on holiday, taking a tour around France on their bicycles. As they make their way across the countryside, Jane is starting to realize that Cathy is a horrendous travelling companion who apparently didn't take into account that a bicycling tour requires a whole lot of bicycling.

They're only a couple days into their trip and Jane wants to cover as much ground as possible. Cathy whines about distances and would rather party and meet guys than do what they had originally planned. Stopping to eat, the girls see a handsome man among their fellow diners, and they keep spotting him when they continue on - passing them on his scooter, visiting a cemetery. The tease of repeatedly being in the vicinity of a guy who she can't actually interact with seems to be the final straw for Cathy in the fight of her reluctance vs. Jane's determination to keep going. The girls have an argument that ends with Cathy resting at the edge of the woods while Jane continues on without her.


Soon after the split, Cathy realizes that staying behind was a bad idea - there's someone stalking around the woods, someone who has cut the spokes of her bicycle wheels. Stopping to wait for Cathy in the next town, Jane is told that she has picked a "bad road" to travel and finds out that a young girl, a tourist on a hike, was raped and murdered in this area, somewhere around the woods, three years earlier. Strangely, this tourist girl is buried in the local cemetery, it's her grave that we saw the handsome scooter guy visiting.

Returning to the spot where she left Cathy, Jane finds that her friend has vanished without a trace. And so begins a frantic search, Cathy trying to overcome the language barrier as she deals with the locals, attempting to get help from people who she and the viewers can't be sure whether or not she can trust (including handsome scooter guy, who makes some very questionable moves), desperate to find and hopefully save her pain in the ass pal.


And Soon the Darkness was directed by Robert Fuest, who passed away earlier this year. From this film, Fuest would go on to make the very popular Dr. Phibes movies starring Vincent Price, as well as 1975's The Devil's Rain. Before this, Fuest had directed several episodes of the British television series The Avengers, on which screenwriters Brian Clemens and Terry Nation also worked. More than The Avengers, Nation is known for writing many episodes of Doctor Who and creating the villainous Daleks.

Pamela Franklin does nice work in the lead role of Jane. Franklin was in a good number of genre movies, including The Innocents (1961), Necromancy (a.k.a. The Witching), The Legend of Hell House, Satan's School for Girls, and The Food of the Gods. Michele Dotrice is very annoying as Cathy, but that's the character. Dotrice was also in 1966's The Witches and 1971's The Blood on Satan's Claw. As handsome scooter guy, whose name is Paul, is Sandor El├Ęs. Horror fans may know him from Countess Dracula or as Hans the assistant in The Evil of Frankenstein, and he's good at keeping the audience guessing as to what his true intentions are.


The story of the film is very simple and it all takes place during the daylight hours of one day. It's a great set-up for what is a good, suspenseful little thriller, but the 95 minute running time for it may be a bit much. There are times when the movie feels like it's dragging its feet or going in circles just to pad things out, which it didn't really need to. It would've been fine being a little shorter. Even though there are moments when it feels like things are going nowhere, the film still manages to remain intriguing throughout.

My favorite thing about the movie is its remote country locations, stretches of road with nothing around but fields and trees. It looks great on screen. I'm also quite fond of the music by Laurie Johnson, which at times is sort of reminiscent of a Harry Manfredini Friday the 13th score.

Forty years later, a remake of And Soon the Darkness was made, with Odette Yustman and Amber Heard on a trip through Argentina. I haven't seen that one.


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