REVIEW: Devil in the Dark
– By Dale Saxton
Two brothers Clint and Adam head deep into the British Columbian forest/mountains to bag themselves a deer and bond after many years apart.
It’s a simple enough premise and there’s definitely a lot of elements we’ve seen before, but I still think this has enough to warrant a viewing.
At first glance our two leads seem like two-dimensional cliches. The rough and tumble, father’s favourite, outdoorsy type, who took over the family business (which isn’t important) and the introvert, comic book reader, who left home for the big city.
I found myself groaning at the character introductions. But then we delve deeper…
The first act burns slow. It allows a lot of time with the characters. It throws a lot of information at us, regarding back-stories between the brothers, before we even set foot in the forest.
It gives us enough so that we’re mildly intrigued as to how they get on together during their camping trip.
All the while this is framed with flashbacks of their dad dragging clint through the forest, trying to find Adam. Who was lost in there, on a father-sons camping trip, as a young boy. He seems to constantly dream about this moment, being lost in the forest. The dreams only intensify as the story moves closer to the events of the past.
It’s interesting and atmospheric. I really have to commend the cinematographer, Philip Lanyon, for nailing the atmosphere and pulling off some absolutely gorgeous images.
The second half doesn’t really pay off or capitalise on the time invested earlier on. There’s some interesting ideas and great horror imagery but it never really ties together as a whole. We have a lot of character investment to ready us for the move into the forest and I was hoping for something a little more complex.
Sadly, it hopped on the tracks and played through the linear horror tropes of a ‘something in the woods’ movie.
Creature design is pretty uninspired, despite the great production design work of the devil’s lair. And as the action starts to hop up and we feel like the horror could start to climb, we’re reduced to cuts to black. A simple get out clause for not thinking of a way out for the characters. Just cut to black, skip ahead and let the audience fill in the blanks. Not great, because in my opinion the blanks could’ve been exciting sequences!
It’s worth watching for the cinematography and top-notch atmosphere alone though. The leads (Dan Payne & Robin Dunne) do carry the film well. But there are many missed opportunities that just let it fall flat.
2½ / 5
Devil in the Dark is available on VOD nationwide in the U.S. from Momentum Pictures on Tuesday, March 7th.