A potentially undead girl allows a horribly blinded boy to stay life – with unexpected consequences for the both.
A nervous man enters a middle-of-nowhere gas and convenience. The clerk is suspicious – if not outright hostile.
When he learns the nervous man is headed for Devil’s Den, his scorn level amps up and he asks, “So, ya like scary stories, eh?’
The Dark is a fascinating film because, while it falls under the heading of horror, it’s something more than that.
Beginning with the nervous man, whom we learn is a fugitive named Josef Hofer (Karl Markovics), discovering something nasty in the wooded area called Devil’s Den – an empty house with a bedroom with walls filled with drawings of people and animals suffering.
Unfortunately, for Josef at least, there is something in the house – something his pistol does not deter. A badly scarred girl – whom we later learn is named Mina (Nadia Alexander) – who kills him and snacks on his face!
When she checks Josef’s car, she finds a blind boy – whom we later learn is named Alex (Toby Nichols) – concealed under a blanket – and, for some reason, she spares his life.
It’s possible that Mina is undead – while eating human flesh doesn’t bother her, trying some cereal makes her sick.
And Alex’s blindness is not natural – horrible scarring around his eyes is proof of that.
While we learn both Mina’s and Alex’s stories (Mina’s in flashbacks) – and both are horrific, The Dark doesn’t dwell on them over much.
Instead, their stories are the bedrock on which a (very) tenuous relationship begins.
It becomes apparent that, for this possibly undead girl and blinded boy, they may be each other’s salvation.
Written and directed by Justin P. Lange, The Dark is a character study with a bit of gore.
Both Mina’s and Alex’s outer damage is matched by the dark blots on their souls – darkness caused through no fault of their own.
Both share a certain vulnerability, emotionally. Neither is able to trust easily – but that key decision by Mina to Spare Alex’s life opens up possibilities for them. They might even be soulmates.
Mostly shot with a palette of blues, browns and greens, The Dark doesn’t let its gloom get in the way of some unlikely wit, right from the start – the gas/convenience store prologue is clear evidence of that.
When Mina tells Alex that Devil’s Den is haunted, she knows whereof she speaks – she’s the haunter!
By the film’s ending, both youths have protected each other – and a definite emotional bond has been made.
That’s what makes a certain sacrifice so poignant.
Lange plays with – and teases out – a number of horror movie tropes and tweaks them just enough that, combined with the tender boy-meets-girl (though not cutely) story, twists the genre just enough to make it fresh and involving.
It’s not perfect – there a few times where taking thing slowly makes the film drag a bit in the first and second acts. Those moments are more than compensated with amazing cinematography by Klemens Hufnagel and some perfect editing in key sequences.
If you’re looking for by-the-numbers slasher fun here, this is not your movie. This is for the horror fans who want to know how the characters got that way – and see if they can possibly change.
The Dark is in select theaters and on SVOD.
Final Grade: B+