★1/2 out of ★★★★★
They’re losing interest. Quick! Get naked!
Where to begin on this one? First off, depending on where and when you see the movie it might be called Charlotte Wakes, its original title, Darkness Wakes, the title used for its UK release, or The Sitter which was its title when it reached the US. Whatever name it chooses to use, this film is the sophomore outing for writer/director Simon Richardson. I think. IMDB’s a little shaky on the details, but I think there was a comedy back in 2013? I’m not really sure.
And that’s pretty much how I felt watching Darkness Wakes.
We first meet Charlotte [Aisling Knight; Night Call (2016), Exorcism (2014)] as she’s driving out to the lovely Harpsden Wood House — just take the A4155 north from Play Hatch and a left onto Woodlands Rd. You can’t miss it. Where was I? Oh, right. Charlotte. Our uninhibited heroine is driving out to meet with Mr. and Mrs. Farrow who own the lovely Harpsden Wood House as well as a cat. The Farrows are leaving town for a weekend and need someone to stay in their home as a house sitting/cat-sitting gig. Charlotte interviews with the very odd couple, takes the job, and returns the next day to commence with the sitting.
Upon returning to the lovely Harpsden Wood House, Charlotte is given a very thorough tour of the place by Mr. Farrow [Richard Kilgour; Inside the Court of Henry VIII (2015)] who masterfully plays the mildly creepy and extremely awkward homeowner to a T. Once the tour’s over, the Farrows leave and Charlotte’s got the run of the house. Which, naturally, means we’re given another tour of the place as she wanders around trying doors and peeking in cupboards. Eventually, she goes looking for the cat whose life is in her hands and yet she’s never seen, but she can’t find it so she takes a shower.
While in the shower, Charlotte hears noises upstairs and figures it’s probably the cat. Later that evening while sipping wine and reading a book, she hears noises again and figures it’s probably the cat. Finally, in the middle of the night, she wakes up, hears the same noises again, and decides now is the perfect time to investigate. Spoiler alert. It’s the cat. Darkness Wakes is a big fan of jump scares and none of them are terribly effective. The cat, some toast, her reflection in a mirror. Something’s always jumping out at Charlotte.
She goes back to bed and has one of those “naked dreams” that we’ve all had before. You know the ones. Where you’re completely naked and your eyes go all black while someone unseen is whispering things at you? The last time I had one of those I was… why are you looking at me like that? Um, nevermind. Let’s just move on.
There are two other things that Darkness Wakes is a big fan of. (1) Dreams within dreams where the character “wakes up” from the first dream only to have more weirdness happen until they wake up for real and (2) Charlotte getting naked. Both happen often enough that you’re able to predict when they’re going to happen next. However, the most jarring things about Darkness Wakes are its continuity problems. A good example happens once Charlotte wakes up the next day.
While jogging through the woods the next morning she bumps into one of the neighbors. He’s twitchy and awkward and leaves without saying anything. Next thing we know, he’s opening the backdoor with a key. Later in the movie we find out that this man and his wife hate the Farrows so why does he have a key to their backdoor? He makes a beeline for Charlotte’s room and licks her underwear. Uh… what? Meanwhile, Charlotte’s come back from her jog. She looks up at the house, thinks she sees movement in one of the windows, and then….
The very next scene is Charlotte leaving the house and getting in her car. She’s obviously changed clothes from what she wore on her jog so she must have gone into the house. It seemed like things were driving up to some kind of confrontation and then someone let the air out of the tires. Errors like that really yank you out of the moment and it takes a while to get back in sync with the movie.
There are Satanists and sacrifice and robes and kidnapping. Aisling Knight actually does a great job with what she’s given to work with and, as I mentioned before, Richard Kilgour was superbly uncomfortable as the awkwardly creepy Mr. Farrow. Unfortunately, as a whole, Charlotte Darkness Wakes the Sitter just has too many flaws to overlook.
Truth be told, I almost gave this movie one star. I just bumped it up half-a-star because of the lovely Harpsden Wood House.