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Clint (Dan Payne) and Adam (Robin Dunne) are brothers, though hardly close, separated by their differences from years earlier. Raised by an outdoorsman, Clint took to the hunting and survivalist lifestyle of their father while Adam preferred reading to killing animals, though what he considered favoritism spurned resentment that has lingered into adulthood. What we also know is that as children, an incident in the nighttime woods while the boys and their father were together has altered everything about their future when Adam, separated from the two, is found after a desperate search, standing in a state of shock, staring in the shadows of the trees. Something seemed to be staring back.
Now as men, and fifteen years since he left town, Adam has come back, looking to reconnect and wants Clint to take him into the mountains to hunt, which seems odd, but as their father has passed and Clint wants to heal old wounds, he agrees. Once up in the beautiful British Columbian forests, the two leave behind their truck and then their quad and take to hiking up to the plateau, a place that has been known to claim a few lives, but where Clint is sure herds of deer are awaiting ‘harvest’ as he calls it. Despite ethical disparities about their plan, Tim eagerly follows.
Along the way, the men weave in and out of disputed pasts and amusing stories, but it’s not long before they hear strange sounds and see peculiar things in the distance. Convinced there is something sinister stalking them, they now must put their differences behind them and try to understand what is hiding in the dark and why it has come to collect them.
Directed by Tim Brown, from a screenplay by Carey Dickson, Devil in the Dark is not what you might think by looking at the poster and reading the tagline. While it is technically a horror film, it is far more psychological, playing on a number of themes, including guilt and betrayal, though it plays just as well if one were to abandon any metaphorical interpretations. In fact, it takes a good long time before the titular creature makes its first appearance, and depending on one’s taste for things, could be disappointing, not so much because of how it looks, but indeed, for showing up at all. There’s a case to be made that Brown and Dickson are toying with a mental breakdown about a man overcome by grief, searching for penance and the ‘devil’ is in fact a manifestation. This all makes for some compelling questions and deeper thinking, which might seem counter to a genre that is looking only to frighten, but in many ways, that is not what Devil in the Dark is trying to do. It’s a smarter movie than it looks to be.
That’s made doubly more effective by outstanding work from Dan Payne who is, simply put, leagues above his costars. As a character, Clint undergoes a striking emotional arc, and once you realize that what happened in the woods as children wasn’t about who you think it should be, Devil in the Dark becomes a powerful character study with Payne delivering a truly impactful performance as a man in great agony. It is writing and acting like this that will help in continuing to redefine the genre.
Devil in the Dark is a good-looking and genuinely affecting return for Brown, who hasn’t helmed a film since 2007’s The Cradle. Featuring truly, one of the scariest demon dens in film history, and some nice twists on classic tropes, this is a surprise from the opening chilling moments to a final shot that shifts everything about what you think is happening.
Devil in the Dark releases March 7 on VOD.
Movie description: Devil in the Dark is a 2017 horror/thriller about a two bothers who head into the woods on a hunting trip only to find themselves stalked by malevolent presence.
Director(s): Tim Brown
Actor(s): Dan Payne, Robin Dunne, Briana Buckmaster
Genre: Horror, Thriller