The Dark Movie Review
Written by Becky Roberts
Released by Signature Entertainment / Frightfest Presents
Directed by Justin P. Lange and Klemens Hufnagl
Written by Justin P. Lange
2018, 95 minutes, Not Yet Rated
UK Premiere on Monday 27th August
Nadia Alexander as Mina
Toby Nichols as Alex
Karl Makovics as Josef
Margarete Tiesel as Agnes
Five years after writing and directing a short film about a lonely young monster who encounters a kidnapped and abused boy with sewn-shut eyes, Justin P. Lange marks his feature film debut with the evolution of that same story (sharing the director’s chair with cinematographer Klemens Hufnagl).
Wandering the woods where she was brutally murdered, ghoulish axe-wielding girl Mina (Nadia Alexander) kills anyone that trespasses on her territory. Until, that is, she finds young, abused and blind Alex (Toby Nichols) in the boot of a car after a run in with his on-the-run kidnapper (Karl Makovics).
What ensues is a tale of unlikely friendship between Mina and Alex as they form an explicit bond in their shared suffering of abuse and psychological trauma.
It’s hard not to draw comparisons with Tomas Alfredson’s Let The Right One In. What starts as a manhunt for a murderer very quickly becomes a coming-of-age survival story in the face of adversity in much the same vein as Eli and Oskar’s.
Lange plays on the genre’s recurring mantra that as much as humans can be true monsters, in the same breath monsters can be all too human. And it’s his effective exploration and execution of that theme that allows The Dark to ask - and successfully draw - empathy from the audience towards Mina, just moments after she catches an innocent cop with her characteristic surprise and savagery, and after learning she has a greater taste for carcasses than cereal.
Within the context of their survival story, which is driven by two deeply affecting central performances by Alexander and Nichols, and well encapsulated in the solitude of their shadowy wooded surroundings, The Dark is steered at pace by the intrigue of their pasts and the suspense surrounding their present situations - which never lets up or shows its hand too early.
Its emotionally-charged tenderness runs seamlessly through the tense, bloodthirsty and at times shocking narrative, with all roads leading to the fate of both protagonists and their relationship, as Alex’s rescuers draw nearer and Mina’s gradual compassion begins to have long-lasting effects on her morality.
Ultimately, its satisfying conclusion draws a just end to what is one of the most humane and heart-rending horrors of the year.
By tying together themes of morality, abuse and friendship, Lange delivers a refreshingly creative and thrilling manhunt that’s as much an exploration of the light in people as the dark.