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Part gothic horror and post-apocalyptic fantasy, DARKNESS is about three sisters dependent on their father to keep them alive.

All Stella (Denise Tantucci), Luce (Gaia Bocci) and Aria (Olimpia Tosatto) know about the outside is that the sun will burn them and the air is not safe to breathe — in fact, their father tells them that women aren’t strong enough to exist outside, only men are. Their mother didn’t heed his warnings and is now dead because of it. The girls have spent years staying inside the family’s crumbling house, and are only allowed to open windows when wearing protective masks and eye goggles that obscure their view.

In addition to controlling their every move, Dad has a quick temper and rages at his daughters when his rules aren’t followed properly. It’s not uncommon for him to yell, berate, and even physically assault them when they’re not acting exactly as he demands. As punishment for what he considers rebellion, he will even leave them alone without food for days at a time.

Now 17, Stella starts to question her father’s motivations and wonder if everything he’s been telling them is true. Driven by a need to protect Luce, who has just reached maturity and is quickly becoming the object of her father’s attentions (yes that’s as horrible as you’re imagining it to be), Stella heads out to see if she can take care of the family without his help, and is shocked at what she discovers.

Director Emanuela Rossi has crafted a beautiful, powerful film that shows the darkness and horror of domestic abuse and control, and also the bond of true family love that can break a destructive cycle. This was a hard watch, but ultimately a really lovely one.

DARKNESS is available to view as part of the Nightstream film festival, from now until October 15th at 12am.

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