Creature features always hold a special place in the lore of Horror Films, as many fans grew up reading about them in various books, the beast hiding in the closet or under the bed, to some it frightens the little kiddies and others, well, and they become the latest fans of the horror genre. Dark Was the Night (2014), is another one of these movies, with subtle references to eco-horror and spiritualism, but it also marks director Jack Heller’s first entry into the horror realm, however not his first time at the helm of a production a previous venture with the thriller Enter Nowhere (2011), a nicely executed movie. This talented man has gone on to also to produce the horror western Bone Tomahawk, starring Kurt Russell, and just released by RLJ Entertainment, though with this creation, he uses the script from Tyler Hisel, original title The Trees. The targeted audience of this film, centers on families, teens and adults with an interesting story and the convincing strong performance and foreboding atmospheric often found in the old fashion horror films of yesteryear.
The movie centers around a bit of Native American legend, and beliefs in ancient rituals, that have come to plague of the small community of Maiden Woods very much on edge with dead and missing livestock and soon their neighbors. It truly starts with a logging team, about 90-miles away ending their lives in horrendous fashion and then the captain of the leader the beast but unable to inform anyone before his demise. The fiendish creature appears in blur and nothing more, thereby Heller stays true to rule hide the creature to the last possible moment, a rule repeated often, in horror and sci-fi movies with great success. Meanwhile as this massacre occurs, the sheriff of Maiden Woods, Paul Shields (Kevin Durand of the television-hit series The Strain) deals with sadness resulting in the death of his son, trying to hold everything together for his wife and other son. This too many was too emotional for the horror story, thought it more of a dramatic story with dark overtones, this concept finds itself incorrect, real horrors happen, effecting people and characters portray the anguish of compelling them to facing demons and devils. The issue slows down the story and builds the caring of the characters and without it; the story loses the thread, becoming a slaughter fest for gore-hounds only. Thankfully, this does not occur and allows the cast and directing to show the pieces of the puzzles careful as not spoiler the reveal at the end of the movie. The beast never explained for the reason it exists, perhaps a retribution for the problems man caused it for the encroachment on its territory or something deeper, penetrating the souls of the townsfolks past generation ancestors. One cannot overlook the stellar contributions from actors Bianca Kajlich (as Paul’s wife) her suffering goes vastly deep and conveys the hardship with tremendous amount of control, then there’s the controlled cockiness of deputy Donny Saunders (Lukas Hass), who brings a true concern protector from the big city. This talented cast works wonderfully together and never leads on or misdirects giving the viewers just information and the moment, and yet allowing them to grieve and understand the depths disappear others feel, a true transcending moment for aspiring to note.
The movie hints the direction a hooved beast, such as a wendigo from many northern states and even reference in horror writer, Algernon Blackwood’s stories, and scattered among many urban legends, and this story incorporates this effectively well. Some also, discounted the storyline for the hints that film echoes the protection of women, due to the town name and the sheriff’s name, Maiden and Shields respectfully, however the film never strives in that direction, and the police wear shields, emotional and physical ones to perform their duties. Hence, a discounted avenue, this truly endorses family solidary and strength from loving couples taking refuge in the cellar of a church.
The CGI work takes away from the creature presence and losing the menacing position, and makes the final moments of fear escape, never recovering them, and losing valuable points to score against the viewers. Otherwise the special effects work effectively well, the casting of shadows and the cinematography adds to the jump scares, which help it survives for the creature feature fans to enjoy enough the first time, repeated views will struggle a bit, especially final film’s last footage moments.
The gore-hounds and splatter-punks won’t enjoy the film, this definitely has a slow burn to the movie and therefore more directed to the older fans that long to recapture those childhood memories of the beast hiding in the closet, and in the darkness waiting to feed on those that don’t adhere to the warnings that everything in life has boundaries.
This review originally published on the now defunct Rogue Cinema website in November 2015 achieving a view count of 1,768.
IMDb Rating: 5.6/10
Baron’s Rating: 5.5/10