The Dark Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by Dark Sky Films
Written and directed by Justin P. Lange
2018, 95 minutes, Not Rated
Released on October 26th, 2018
Starring:Nadia Alexander as Mina
Toby Nichols as Alex
Karl Markovics as Josef Hofer
Dan Beirne as Officer Stevens
Anyone who’s lived through serious trauma will tell you that the effects are long-lasting and permanently alter the way you look at the world. That trauma, especially abuse, will also change who you are as a person. There’s a darkness that’s born in you as a result of surviving such horror. Horror like that can, let’s say, turn an artistic young lady into a flesh-eating monster of local legend. This is the premise presented in The Dark, the debut feature film from writer/director Justin P. Lange.
Josef Hofer (Karl Markovics; The Devil’s Mistress) is on the run, a monster with a young boy named Alex (Toby Nichols; Marvel TV series Iron Fist) as his captive. He flees to Devil’s Den, a remote wilderness of ill repute said to be haunted by a flesh-eating monster. Devil’s Den is indeed presided over by a terrifying creature named Mina (Nadia Alexander; Netflix series Seven Seconds), who makes short work of Josef (and anyone else unfortunate enough to cross her path). She frees Alex, and the two form a bond of shared pain at the hands of the monsters of their past and present. Will the two be able to heal, or will they be consumed by The Dark?
For a freshman effort, Lange has given us a film that takes a strong (and somewhat ambiguous) approach to the classic tale of the monster born of tragedy. Mina and Alex are juxtapositions of each other; she’s far gone, and his pain is fresh. However, both must decide not only what to do with their respective futures, but who they are going to become.
Mina is an immensely powerful character portrayed with real skill by the highly talented Nadia Alexander. She must be both monstrous and vulnerably human, and she does so in a fashion that makes you sit up and take notice. The terrible abuse she suffers and survives (returns from?) is tough to watch but totally justifies the nature of what she now is. Yes, she’s a monster…but she wouldn’t be if it weren’t for the monsters that made her that way. The Dark is fully her vehicle, and watching her progress and transform back into something almost human is subtly done and, dare I say, beautiful.
Alex is a much more complex character. He’s nearly broken, unable to believe that Josef won’t be coming for him. He’s a hindrance and needs Mina to survive, but he’s also critical to her return to the land of the living. In the two-person yin and yang act on display, he’s the light side, blond and fair in comparison to Mina’s absence of outward light. Toby Nichols’ portrayal of a survivor living in literal darkness, blinded by his trauma, is poetic.
The cinematography and score blend together richly in an almost fairy tale-like style. The SFX work is realistic and horrific, grounding the film in a solid horror setting while the actors take it to a different place. More juxtaposition there, as you can’t have the darkness without the light.
There’s some serious ambiguity as to whether Mina is undead or simply driven by the unbearable power of what happened to her. It’s up to you to decide where you stand and if that approach works for you, but you must applaud the balls behind the writing. The Dark is ultimately an impressive first effort from a writer/director who bears watching, uncomfortable poignancy with a built-in trigger warning on the ugliness of human nature.
That’s almost always the real horror, isn't it?