Every so often, you see a horror movie that is just so well done it makes you want to crap your pants and cry like a little girl. We watched one of those this weekend, starting on Friday night. It was so scary we had to turn it off and finish it last night, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to sleep a wink.

Said movie is Darkness, starring Anna Paquin and Lena Olin and a whole bunch of other people I didn’t know but recognized. The director is Spanish, and more importantly, Catalan (apparently they’ve been doing some interesting things in Catalan cinema, or so one of the reviews on IMDb tells me).

Now, the premise is one that is fundamentally scary to just about everyone, no matter what their age or nationality. Anything that plays on one’s childhood fear of the dark is guaranteed to be frightening, especially when seen in a dark movie theater, or worse, the dark recesses of one’s living room.

Add to that premise excellent acting by young Anna and the rest of the cast (especially the dad – just looking at him creeped me out), a few unexpected plot turns, and a decidedly twisted and un-American definition of horror… well, you got yourself a damn scary movie.

In fact, I always find that the Europeans know how to make better horror movies than we do – witness the more recent Pan’s Labyrinth, also by a Spanish director, which was without a doubt one of the most terrifying movies I have ever seen. Literally, I thought I was going to crawl out of my skin to help the little girl get away from the one-eyed child-eating monster. Oh man, my heart rate just jumped even writing about it.

The thing that made this a truly well-crafted movie was that nothing actually happened for the longest time. The fear and suspense was entirely in your own head, and even though you know full well that you’re just freaking yourself out, you still can’t help crapping your pants.

Apparently a lot of other people disagreed with me though, which I discovered upon reading the reviews on IMDb. (That’s how scary it was, I had to grab my computer and pretend to be looking it up in order to distract myself! Yeah, I’m a horror movie wimp, I admit. Even Blair Witch was scary to me.) They said it was too much like other movies, mostly The Shining.

OK, fair enough. Mainly though, I think that people didn’t like it because they’re just plain dumb. Most of the questions were regarding the end, which I won’t ruin except to say that it was a totally evil twist of fate, but one that happened so quickly it could easily be confused. And confusing it was, apparently, because most of the commentators straight up did not understand what happened. Oy.

Thus, by definition, we have a very (perhaps too!) smart, well-acted, surprising and unpredictable movie, one which takes a universal childhood fear and just runs with it. Wow. I’m still scared now, and it’s bright daylight out. Good one!