The haunted house thriller "Darkness Rising" is the latest in a recent wave of horror films that root supernatural terror in real childhood trauma. Veteran TV director Austin Reading, accomplished genre screenwriter Vikram Weet, and a well-traveled cast all make this picture a smoother ride than most — though in a way that makes it feel only more redundant.
Tara Holt stars as Madison, a young woman who returns to her slated-for-demolition childhood home, where 25 years ago her mother tried to kill her (and did kill Madison's sister). Almost as soon as she arrives with her boyfriend, Jake (Bryce Johnson), and her cousin Izzy (Katrina Law), the three begin experiencing eerie phenomena that may explain what happened a quarter-century ago — provided they survive long enough to find out.
"Darkness Rising" features some imaginative effects, a few standout scenes (including a genuinely harrowing flashback to the murders), and an entertainingly cranky supporting performance by Law.
Weet tries to invest a common horror premise with some original mythology, but unlike films that risk disturbing audiences by tying ghosts to abuse, "Darkness Rising" treats Madison's past more as a puzzle to be solved, which drains it of some primal power. That — coupled with some fairly routine jump-scares — ultimately makes this movie as blandly forgettable as its title.
Running time: 1 hour, 21 minutes
Playing: Arena Cinelounge Sunset, Hollywood