The standard villain in late 1970s and early 1980s slasher horror movies had single motivation for his/her murderous acts, particularly obvious when his/her victims were sexually active youths. That motivation was puritanical disgust with the hedonistic practices which were considered sinful and depraved from bible- thumping point of view. That motivation was always hinted in horror movies, more indirectly than directly. Yet there were few films that displayed that motivation from the killer’s point of view. One of the rare films that take that unusual perspective is The Passion of Darkly Noon, 1995 drama written and directed by Philip Ridley.
Protagonist of the film is Darkly Noon (played by Brendan Fraser), 17-year old boy whose parents belonged to fundamentalist Christian sects and got lynched by their neighbours. Shocked and confused by those events, Darkly ran away and got lost in the woods. There he was picked up by kind-hearted passer-by Jude (played by Loren Dean) and brought to house of Callie (played by Ashley Judd), free-spirited and beautiful young woman whose mute boyfriend Clay (played by Viggo Mortensen) makes coffins for the local undertaker. Callie nurses Darkly to health, unaware that she would arouse something a youth can’t handle – sexual excitement. To make things even complicated, Clay left the house for a couple of days, and Callie is left with Darkly and his conflicting obsessions. When Clay returns, Darkly is affected with another unknown emotion – jealousy – and that is enough to slowly drive him over the edge of sanity.
The Passion of Darkly Noon could have been quite remarkable film. The plot was quite intriguing and the casting was perfect. Ashley Judd is incredibly effective in a complex role that requires of her to play not one but several female archetypes, since her character is seen through the eyes of confused Darkly Noon. Judd is seductive and innocent in the same time. Something similar could be said of Viggo Mortensen who is also effective in rather thankless role of her dimwitted and rugged boyfriend. Finally, Brendan Fraser is equally impressive in the role of confused youth turned into homicidal lunatic. Yet, despite the good cast and despite the intriguing subject, this film fails to reach its true potential. Reason might be found in Philip Ridley. His direction at times too MTV-ish, and this approach leaves the viewers as confused as the main protagonist. Script, that should have remained simple, is also burdened with last-act plot complications that belong more to the soap opera than feature film. In the last act everything succumbs to clichés andThe Passion of Darkly Noon turns into just another slasher film. It is easy to imagine that this film could have been much better and this way it should be viewed and nothing more than an interesting failure.