Remade to minimal effect with Amber Heard in 2010, this original Robert Fuest chiller fully deserves a cult reputation. The brain-child of Avengers creator Brian Clemens and Dr Who/Daleks originator Terry Nation, it’s an unusual horror film that unfolds almost entirely under bright sunlight and over a few miles of French countryside.
It’s in this idyllic environment that we meet Jane (Pamela Franklin) and Cathy (Michelle Dotrice), two nurses on a cycling holiday. They bicker and get separated; Cathy vanishes after Jane leaves her in a woodland clearing, and enlists various local men in her quest to find her friend; Sandor Eles and John Nettleton are amongst them.
Kim Newman’s notes on this new Blu-ray extras tie And Soon The Darkness into a specific genre of films in which fish-out-of-water tourists are menaced by locals, with Hostel the obvious example. But there’s also a straight who-dunnit here, with much to misdirect and some ingenious touches like the non-translation of dialogue which forces the audience to see things from Jane’s view. For television specialists, Clements and Nation resisted the temptation to overstuff the narrative ,and instead keep things simple; the killer can only be one of several people, but you’re kept guessing right to the end.
Franklin and Dotrice are British film and tv staples, with Dotrice best known as Betty in sitcom Some Mothers Do Have ‘Em, and they both give a good account of themselves here. Although marketed as horror, this feels more like a straight up thriller, and the minimalism gives it the kind of stripped-down appeal of Steven Spielberg’s Duel.
Regular late-night exposure on television has made And Soon the Darkness a well-remembered film; it’s one of a kind, the there’s bound to be a few viewers, petrified by the film’s moody atmosphere as children, who will return and find that this was a rather accomplished entry in the canon of Bryan Forbes’s short-lived reign at EMI.