Movie Review OUT OF THE DARK

out of the darkIf there is something to be said for OUT OF THE DARK it is that the movie unequivocally proves two important things: Burned, drooling, angry, undead children are a real pain in the ass, and dumbwaiters are always evil. Beyond that the movie tries valiantly to tie a gruesome legend in an old Colombian fishing village, a potential big-industry cover-up and familial tensions into a compelling movie. Unfortunately it struggles and fails to weave a cogent or thrilling story of any kind. It wants to be scary, but isn’t. It wants to intrigue you, but doesn’t. While the film appears to have had a sizable budget and contains some good camera work, it leaves you flat, and the real tragedy is that had the film chosen to drop the “horror” angle it could have made an interesting, suspenseful and somewhat relevant drama.

Sarah and Paul Harriman, played respectively by Julia Stiles and Scott Speedman, move with their young daughter Hannah (Pixie Davies) to a small city in Columbia so Sarah can take over the CEO position of her family owned paper manufacturing company. Her father, played by Stephen Rea, arranges for the family to move into a beautiful, albeit haunted, house just outside the city limits. The opening scene of the film, which sadly proves to be the most suspenseful and well crafted in the entire move, shows us the house is haunted. Because of that fact the film watching experience, to a large degree, becomes just a matter of waiting for the proverbial sh*t to hit the fan. Knowing that the previous resident of the house was engaged in some form of wrongdoing, and that the city is burdened with “dark legends,” we are not sure if the supernatural forces farting aournd with the Harrimans are seeking retribution because of the the misdeeds of the past or because of some potential current evil going on in town. But you do know the gang of undead drooling burned kids are going to mess with precious little Hannah.

Mid-way through the movie I suspected that there was a cover-up at play and that plot possibility was intriguing and held promise which was not adequately delivered. The filmmaker and screenwriters had the opportunity to make a powerfully suspenseful film without a whisper of the supernatural and they chose poorly. The presence of the sacrificed children of the past cheapens the story, serves almost as a red herring and is truly unnecessary. It is also not frightening, and as you know I’m pretty easy to scare. Most of all, OUT OF THE DARK’s biggest problem is its pervasive predictability. Virtually every plot element used to scare is taken from a previous movie and there is absolutely nothing original in the film. If the dumbwaiter is a bad bad evil bad place, don’t repeatedly dwell on it with ominous music for the first half of the film and expect us to be scared. This pattern is repeated throughout the film with equally lackluster results.

Julia Stiles does a decent job with a role that demands very little of her. Speedman on the other hand is as flat as a tortilla. He does not come across as a strong or paternal father or spouse, nor can he convincingly convey fear, panic or much of anything. Beyond that you don’t believe that he and Stiles could be a couple. In a film like this you don’t need a ton of chemistry, but a little can go a long way. There are some nice sequences in terms of the cinematography and the movie opens with a long and crafty tracking shot – a feature which is almost de rigueur in film these days. There are also some interesting special effects which add style and keep us guessing about what exactly is going on. This is director Lluís Quílez’s first feature length film. Many first time directors choose a horror plot as their first feature as audiences tend to be a little more forgiving of that genre and there is a bit more play with a horror movie than, say, a family or war drama. Of the three writers credited for the screenplay, one – Javier Gullón – adapted the screenplay for the film ENEMY (2014) which was one of my personal top ten films of 2014. The dialogue here is not bad per se, it just lacks any real personality. Quílez tries hard to bring all the disparate threads together in a creative and multi-layered plot, but in the end we are just left wondering what those darned vexing undead kids really want, why they’re so pissed off at poor little Hannah and why they like the dumbwaiter so much.

(2 / 5)

DirectorLluís Quílez
Cast: Julia Stiles, Scott Speedman, Pixie Davies, Stephen Rea, Alejandro Furth
Rating: R
Running Time: 92 minutes

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