1970's And Soon the Darkness is a British thriller that tells the tale of two young women, Jane and Cathy (played by Pamela Franklin and Michele Dotrice), who are spending their vacation cycling through the rural back roads of France. Both girls are of contrasting personalities with Jane enjoying the sights and experience of taking a bike trip though the stimulating, lush French country side, while Cathy is a little more interested in having traditional 'ho fun' with one of the locals she spots at a café. Later on during their travels, Cathy and Jane end up having a few random run-ins with the man from the café, but no actual interactions occur, but his random presence certainly piques Cathy's interest more than ever.
The two girls take a quick rest off the side of the road and begin discussing their next move. However, when Jane says she wants to continue on with their bike ride, Cathy complains that she's tired and would much rather take a nap and catch a few rays (you know, typical ho fun). The two have a small quarrel about their differing desires, and Jane ends up going to a nearby café for a quick drink while Cathy stays behind so she can do a little sunbathing. After she has a little time to cool off, Jane makes her way back to the spot where she left Cathy. However, when she returns, she finds that Cathy is nowhere to be found; she has simply vanished without a trace.
Now Jane is left all alone in a foreign land, trying to piece together what may have happened to her friend. She is faced with a wicked language barrier and carries a guarded sense of urgency, as she is not exactly sure who she can and cannot trust. Jane later learns from one of the few English-speaking locals that there was a girl murdered in the area years before, which rightfully worries Jane, as the murder victim fits the same description as Cathy. Even more concerning is Paul (Sandor Elès), the mysterious man from the café that Cathy was digging on earlier, who claims to have been an investigator on that murder case. However, Jane cannot determine whether or not she can trust Paul as much of what he has to say, as well as his presence throughout the day, seems to all be a bit too fishy.
Regardless of its title, And Soon the Darkness avoids resorting to the threat of nightfall for creepy atmosphere. Instead, director Robert Fuest generates genuine chills and tension through skillful camerawork, careful pacing and subdued sound design to achieve a sense of dread and unease. And he does so right in broad daylight. Fuest bravely and successfully delivers a handful of tightly wound scenes of pure suspense that occur in the bright shimmering light of the summer's sun, in an area so picturesque that it's hard to believe a murder, or anything of the sort, could ever occur. And it's all tucked into a story that's built on confusion, mistrust and a complete lack of security for our protagonist, which translates directly to the viewer.
All of the acting is tops, specifically the attractive, salmon colored butt-cuts wearing, Pamela Franklin, who plays the role of Jane in a way that is defensive but strong willed. Her expressive face conveys much of what cannot be expressed through language as most of her interactions are with people she is unable to converse with. I would say that the film's only real flaw is in its predicable ending, however, there are a number of clues that would point to the conclusion and eventual reveal of what happened to Cathy. Nevertheless, the film remains unclear enough to where you will question your clue driven prediction at certain points, thus keeping one from ever being 100% sure until the final moments.
And Soon the Darkness is a prime example of what made well-crafted cinema of the 1970s so wonderful. It's patiently paced with a deliberately ambiguous tone that puts the viewer in a position of being just as unsure as Jane about the whereabouts of her friend as well as her own safety. Robert Fuest allows the story to unfold naturally, which helps to mount an uncomfortable feeling that slowly creeps up your spine throughout the picture and up until its eventual finale.