Dark Nature DVD review
Directed by Marc de Launay
Written by Eddie Harrison
2009, NTSC, 76 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on May 4th, 2010
Vanya Eadie as Jane
Imogen Toner as Chloe
Niall G. Fulton as McKenzie
James Bryce as John
Tom Carter as Haywood
Len McCaffer as Alex
Joanna Miller as Emily
Jane has invited her family and friends to visit her mother’s beachside cottage, but what should be a blissful vacation is hampered by the stressful relationship with her daughter Chloe. Jane’s boyfriend, Alex, is too laid back to be helpful and her young son Shawn is generally quiet and reserved. Jane is unaware that her mother and stepfather have been murdered and that something unnatural is waiting for them.
When they arrive at the house, Jane finds her friends loitering outside. She assures them that her mother is probably off on a walk and to make themselves at home while she and the family explore the property. Watching from the bushes is John, the environmentalist who always keeps a video camera in hand. His curious behavior makes him an instant primary suspect, but he is quickly surpassed by McKenzie, the quietly intimidating gamekeeper.
John makes an observation that nature comes equipped with defense mechanisms enabling it to fight back against man’s transgressions. It is not exactly a spoiler to reveal that this is indeed what is going on as an invisible unidentified vapor is responsible for the otherwise random behavior of the inhabitants. This detail is never explained within the film and thus feeds an ongoing sense of general confusion.
What follows is a quiet and deliberately paced look at the balance between man and nature and also the relationships within the human populace. There are extended sequences of walking and talking as the family members reflect on the important things in life, intercut with moments of sudden graphic violence as the vapor is responsible for an unseen killer to pick his way through the local residents. The film returns to the horror formula for a finale that generates ample tension, but leaves the audience unsatisfied with the lack of resolution.
Man vs. Nature or Nature vs. Man is a question taken to heart in this quiet eco-thriller from director Marc de Launay. The film echoes the more existential cinema of the 1970s focusing on internal struggle while adding horror elements with mixed results. A lack of exposition is the largest hurdle facing Dark Nature, an otherwise compelling feature.
The bleakness of tone is perfectly represented in Andrew Bregg’s stunning cinematography that really puts the locations to work. The interiors of the house are given a shadowy presentation rich with possibilities, while the exterior grounds feature lush wooded landscapes that reach to the rocky seashore. The lonely Scottish landscapes are engaged to the fullest with the assistance of a nicely utilized widescreen format.
The acting is solid across the board, but that unfairly accentuates some of the weaker elements of the script. When pressed into action, some characters behave in an irrational and occasionally annoying manner. One example being when the environmentalist races home and is pounding on the door for his wife to let him in, she takes the time to call his cell phone before bothering to look out the window, thus hampering the sense of urgency.
Vanya Eadie and Imogen Toner play well opposite each other as a bickering mother and daughter. The latter, as a bored teen forced to spend the weekend on holiday with her family, is particularly effective, especially in a disturbing sequence shared with Niall G. Fulton’s McKenzie. Fulton succeeds at creating a menacing character with only a handful of dialogue that is deliberately innocuous, but equally sinister.
Marc de Launay’s direction experiments with the standard horror formula and succeeds in creating an atmospheric film, rich with an overwhelming sense of dread, but the film is tripped up by weaker elements of Eddie Harrison’s script. While deliberately paced, the editing manages to make a 76-minute film feel at times to be twice as long. There is enough going right in Dark Nature to make the shortcomings all the more frustrating.
Video and Audio:
Troma delivers a frustrating anamorphic-enhanced picture in that it presents the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio at its best during the numerous exterior sequences, but falters with substantial edge enhancements throughout the interiors.
Dolby Digital 2.0 is the only audio option provided for the feature, and while serviceable it would have been nice had the track been opened up to 5.1 surround.
Director Marc de Launay is joined on a commentary track by writer Eddie Harrison and the two are quietly engaging and polite. The information is constant but delivered in a matter-of-fact tone that is rather subdued.
Up next is a 27-minute behind the scenes featurette that offers a nice glimpse at the crew working, balanced with interviews, a set of production stills and a look at some of the special effects props. This featurette is also presented in anamorphic widescreen.
Actress Vanya Eadie is featured in a brief interview (13 minutes) sitting comfortably while discussing the demands of the production.
The disc also presents The Last Noel, an entertaining (8 minutes) short film from director de Launay. The short appears in a fairly solid anamorphic widescreen presentation.
A full frame trailer for Dark Nature rounds out the film specific supplements, and trailers for additional Troma titles finish off the disc.
Click a cover to purchase.