Devil in the Dark Review
Don't Forget to follow Jerry on Twitter
Also look for Jerry's short film
Love Is Dead
by: Jerry Smith
When done right, horror films can be the one genre that allows us, as viewers, the opportunity to examine ourselves and the relationships we have and forces us to look at the finality of life. Others genres can do that as well, but not to the degree of our beloved horror films. Sure, we get our fair share (and then some) of slice and dice slasher films and that's fine, but when films like HONEYMOON, THE MONSTER or TRASH FIRE come along, there's something that forces us to hold a mirror to ourselves and evaluate those around us, the relationships we carry with those people. Tim Brown's DEVIL IN THE DARK (hitting VOD in the U.S. beginning March 7th via Momentum Pictures) attempts to do just that, telling the story of two brothers who attempt to face their demons and unresolved issues, but unfortunately, serves up a story that never quite gets to the goal of what it attempts.
Following Clint (Dan Payne, CABIN IN THE WOODS, WATCHMEN), a working class husband and father, DEVIL IN THE DARK allows us a brief introduction to the film's story via an early flashback to when the character was a young boy, going hunting with his father (played by X-MEN's Daniel Cudmore) and his younger brother, Adam. After being spooked by a mysterious creature or entity hiding in the trees, the film skips ahead to present day, when the now grown up Adam (played by Sanctuary/Dawson's Creek star Robin Dunne) returns to town to spend a camping trip with his estranged brother. It's an interesting setup for a film, putting the brother's fractured relationship under the microscope, but DEVIL IN THE DARK never quite does anything with its potential. We don't get very much character development, in fact the only time we DO get an insight into what each character is about, is when the film goes back and forth with flashbacks of the men when they were young. After the film's flashback opening of being scared by the woods, the following set of flashbacks points out that Clint has never identified with Adam and Adam's lack of any interest towards what Clint enjoys has caused a wedge to be pushed between the two.
Present day, there's little to work with when it comes to the two characters. Adam envys Clint's stable life of being married and a father, but we never get more than a scene filled with a pretty epic misusing of Tom Rosenthal's heartreaking love song, "It's Ok" to help push an emotion onto the film's viewer, instead of relying on a solid script to help do just that. The song turns what could have been an interesting scene into one that just feels very awkward (for a great example of what type of film the song SHOULD be in, look up the trailer for Sam Esmail's COMET, which features the same tune). We never fully to get know Clint or Adam or the peopel surrounding them, instead we get small glimpses or moments, moments which never allow us to feel any sympathy or hope in them.
When the brother do embark on their camping trip, they begin to be surrounded by something in the forest but like the relationship that's never fully explained or fleshed out, we're thrust into a situation that we don't get or don't really care about. What's in the woods? Is it a metaphor for something forcing the brothers to confront their long seeded issues with each other? Is it a monster? We're never fully told and instead of being confronted by danger and rising above it or succumbing to it, the film ends up really going nowhere.
It's unfortunate, but the film missing its mark isn't the fault of any of the actors or even on a technical level. It's a wonderfully shot and acted film, the cinematography looks beautiful and open and Payne, Dunne and Cudmore all do any excellent job. Where the film heads into misfire territory is in its lack of giving its viewer anything to really sink their teeth into. Give us more to the characters, give us more danger and give us something to sympathize with.