Directorial debut of Justin P. Lange, The Dark is the feature-length horror drama based on the short movie of the same name the filmmaker made five years ago. This is an Austrian film, but if you don’t like reading subtitles (for some to me incomprehensible reason) don’t worry: the actors are American and speak English throughout the entire runtime.
Quite unsurprisingly, given the title, this movie opens in a very dark way with a shady guy (Josef) driving to a secluded location with somebody tied up in the trunk of his car. This happens just after Josef (Karl Markovics) killed a man at a gas station.
This opening sequence teases something along the lines of a very dark thriller, where the kidnapper might set up some nasty torture at the expense of the poor abducted person – a young boy named Alex, as we later find out. However, as soon as Josef enters what appears to be an abandoned mansion to hide himself and the boy from the police, he’s attacked by a monstrous creature that brutally kills him and rescues Alex.
The creature is, in actuality, a young, disfigured and undead girl: Mina (Nadia Alexander). From this point onwards, we follow the unlikely friendship between Mina – who needs to feed upon human flesh to survive – and Alex, who’s been tortured and blinded by Josef. As the movie progresses, the audience learns how both teenagers have been victims of unimaginable abuse, and each finds solace in the other. Is there a chance of redemption and peace for them at the end of the tunnel?
Although The Dark is clearly inspired by the now popular (ever since Let The Right One In came out) coming-of-age/horror hybrid, I found this movie riveting and engrossing, to the point I felt desperate to see more as soon as the end credits started rolling. Since I believe The Dark to be a fantastic picture, I highly suggest you stop reading this review (even though it’s spoiler-free) right now and go watch the movie!
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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As I mentioned before, from the get-go the atmosphere, filled with an overall dark and sombre tone, pulls you into the story and builds up to a story that nicely and brutally unfolds. Although we’ve seen this type of plotline before, the way the story develops here is quite unpredictable and has you constantly guessing what will happen next.
Yet, The Dark is extremely brutal, violent and uncomfortable. Unlike many other coming-of-age horror stories, this film doesn’t shy away from disturbing content and over-the-top onscreen violence: without giving anything away, whenever somebody comes across Mina and Alex, things for these passers-by don’t end up pretty. If you’re not used to gore and slaughter in your horror flicks, The Dark might leave you with a very sour taste in your mouth.
Nonetheless, don’t let this discourage you from checking the film out, since the story at its core and the interaction between Mina and Alex are very sweet and emotional.
However, the reasons why they meet up and the abuse they went through in their own different ways are, perhaps, the most disturbing and enraging aspects of The Dark: as a viewer, you feel powerless seeing (through flashbacks scattered in the movie) these two innocent souls being subjected to real-life horror no person (especially kids) should ever experience.
Also, the great and depressing storyline is here backed up by subtle and consistent cinematography and, mostly, perfectly fitting soundtrack and masterfully crafted sound-design. Most of the intense sequences don’t rely on music: there’s silence while the drama (and the horror) is happening, which makes the viewing experience even more confronting and realistic.
I personally believe The Dark also makes the smart choice of presenting the audience with an underlying message that is both subtle and visible in plain sight. In other words, this is not the type of film that leaves you with unanswered questions or with an open ending: the story has a closure, which leaves no room for frustration and disappointment for those viewers who don’t want to read into the film after it’s finished.
Even though I can’t stress enough how much I loved this film and that you should really watch it as soon as you get the chance, I’d say there are a few flaws to be found here and there.
For example, when Mina and Alex come across people in these supposedly isolated woods (which are quite crowded for being constantly referred to as ‘isolated’), these people often make very dumb choices that most definitely won’t make them any good. Yet, the acting by Alex’s character can be a bit wooden at points, even though towards the end it becomes very convincing.
Overall, The Dark is a fantastic indie horror film, one that will punch you hard throughout the runtime and will most likely have you tear up a bit when the end credits appear on screen. It’s a movie about confronting and, sometimes, sickening themes that also has a sweet and delicate meaning, which is something very tough to balance. Justin Lange’s directorial debut is a great surprise, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
The Dark 8.5/10