Scary Things Are Still Coming "From The Dark" Review

It’s a familiar story: young people head into the wilderness for a peaceful getaway or a fun-filled adventure, but encounter horror instead, whether it be otherworldly creatures or an all-too-human killer. From there, it is a battle for survival--and all too often the heroes, with all their human follies and foibles, come up short in the face of evil. It’s a basic formula for fright that has been remixed by filmmakers time and time again, with varying results: recent standouts include Eden Lake (2008), which forced Michael Fassbender and Kelly Reilly to endure psychological and physical torture at the hands of some terrifying teenagers, and The Descent (2005), which stranded a team of spelunkers deep underground in cave populated by bloodthirsty creatures of the same mold as Gollum--if he had rabies. From the Dark does not quite reach those films' heights, but it is solidly scary, more so than many of the other horror films I have seen of late.

Sarah (Niamh Algar) and Mark (Stephen Cromwell) are heading out into the idyllic Irish countryside for a romantic weekend getaway, though they end up spending most of the car ride arguing--especially after Mark shoots down Sarah’s tentative query of whether or not he is planning to propose by going on an anti-marriage tirade. The tension building up inside the car overflows when a wrong turn results in the car getting stuck in the mud in the middle of nowhere. The only sign of civilization is a nearby farmhouse, but what Sarah and Mark find living there is decidedly not human. Once darkness falls, the creature thrives--only light can keep it from finding and attacking its prey. Victims then transform, zombie-style, into creatures themselves. Sarah and Mark must outlast the night in order to escape the creature at dawn, and the odds are decidedly not in their favor.

From the Dark is one of the more chilling creature features that I have seen in quite some time. It helps that the creature in question is actually scary, and shot in a style that reveals enough of its grotesque Nosferatu-meets-Goblin King visage to be utterly creepy without giving too much away. The shadowy cinematography by Michael Lavelle manages to toe the line of being dark enough to be intimidating without being so dark that you have no idea what is going on--something that very few horror films seem to be able to do as of late, too infatuated with the idea of lighting everything as dimly as possible in order to cover up any deficiencies in budget. While Cromwell's Mark is too annoying to have many redeeming values, Sarah, as portrayed by Algar, is a strong-willed heroine who is easy to cheer for in her battle against the monsters of the night; one sequence that involves her dodging through lamplight in order to make it to a tractor that could potentially be their salvation is so intense that you can’t help but root for her to survive.

From the Dark doesn’t venture too far off the path beaten for it by previous films; both the characters and the story are rather derivative. Yet it does what it does well enough that it is hard to care too much about its lack of originality. It’s a perfectly fine entry in the survival-horror pantheon that should keep you vibrating with tension up until the final moments.

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES

The Blu-ray release of From the Dark includes commentary from writer-director-producer Conor McMahon, behind the scenes footage and the film’s trailer.

"From the Dark" is on sale April 14, 2015 and is not rated. Horror. Directed by Conor Mcmahon. Written by Conor McMahon. Starring Ged Murray.

Jul
07
2015
Lee Jutton • Staff Writer

Lee attended NYU for Film & TV Production, but she now works mostly in PR. Her primary obsessions in life are Doctor Who, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Arsenal F.C. When not writing about things she's watched, she's running or kickboxing in preparation for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. 

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