2014 / Director. Jack Heller.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
DARK WAS THE NIGHT is one of those bump-in-the-night films that relies on texture. It's a horror film shrouded in shadows and light and is driven by the power of suggestion. Set in the small town of Maiden Woods it tells the story of a malevolent force within the forest. When livestock start disappearing the local sherif and his deputy investigate the occurrences and soon find themselves pitted against a creature that were thought to have only existed in local lore.
Almost everything about this film works. It is an accomplished low budget horror film that sets itself above the rest thanks to a very sharp script, impeccable performances and stunning cinematography. Director Jack Heller employed a strict “less is more” attitude to tell his story and put as much energy into character development as he did the horror. With a constantly augmented colour scheme of washed-out blue hues and saturated bright reds the result is a nightmarish and kinetic fantasy thriller with a strong emotional arch.
Kevin Durand leads the film as the grief stricken sherif living with the torment of guilt, following the tragic death of his son. To the extent of my knowledge this is the first leading role for Durand (although his is no stranger to audiences) and he delivers his performance with perfection. I honestly cannot imagine another actor in the role now that I've seen him offer such a strong and layered character. He is an actor full of expression, with a skilled subtlety to his style, and DARK WAS THE NIGHT seems to be the perfect vehicle for him to showcase his aptitude. The supporting cast also deserve their own kudos with Lucas Haas and Bianca Kajlich lending the film additional conviction and creditability.
There is something classic about this unsuspecting creature-feature. The colour design recalls some of Mario Bava's later work while the cinematography harks back to the 1970s with nods to films like DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW and some of Dario Argento's more eclectic contributions. Throw in some SLEEPY HOLLOW and you will begin to understand the type of visual treat that DARK WAS THE NIGHT has to offer.
The only genuine indiscretion for me was in a few, albeit minor, gratuities within the final act. There are fleeting moments where some of the insert shots of the town seem out of place and the creature reveal peels back a few too many layers than it probably should have. Having said that, these things hardly effect the power of the film and it still remains a thrilling and hypnotic experience. I only wish I had seen it on the big screen. This is a direct-to-video release that genre fans do not want to miss.