Directed by Justin P. Lange & Klemens Hufnagl. Starring Nadia Alexander, Toby Nichols, Karl Markovics. Horror, US 2018, 96mins, Cert 15.
Released in the UK on DVD and Digital HD on 22nd October by Frightfest Presents.
Adapted from co-director Justin P. Lange’s short film of the same name, THE DARK is an effective horror film that fuses elements from wide areas of the genre into something that manages to feel unique. Opening in America’s heartland, we meet Josef Hofer (Karl Markovics) a man whom we discover is hiding something, and is on the run. He winds up being stalked in an isolated house in a notorious stretch of woodland aptly named ‘Devil’s Den’. It’s not an entirely original beginning, but works like a very good pre-title sequence of THE X FILES gradually stretching to a tension-filled opening twenty minutes. There is not much by the way of editing, as an effective use of long takes is utilised alongside a smart sound design in place of jump scares.
Following this though is something of a tonal shift as the focus moves to Mina (Nadia Alexander), a deeply troubled girl living in the aforementioned woods and Alex (Toby Nichols), a blind boy who is the secret that Hofer was hiding. Alex is missing but as a wider network closes in on himself and Mina, they form a friendship, something akin to the central story strand of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. Both of them have tormented pasts as flashback fills us in on Mina’s story while Alex’s shyness provides us just glimpses of what he has been through. Both are internally and externally tortured souls but the question of who the real monsters of the film are is an ever-present theme.
There is a focus on atmosphere rather than jolts is a welcome one, as is the idea to stay with the hunters rather than the hunted. The innocence of some victims along the way does reduce sympathies for the central pair, while the overt gore feels unnecessary, as does a somewhat unexplained cannibalism element.
Yet despite some misgivings this is an above average horror film that is well performed and manages to find an oddly emotional ending that, much like the rest of the film, is rooted in character.