Filmmakers approach horror films in a variety of different ways, utilizing everything from creepy soundtracks to masterful effects to gratuitous sex or violence. But a really solid horror film needs to entangle an audience in the story. Tim Brown’s Devil in the Dark often proved intriguing without a lot of crazy violence or sex.
Estranged brothers reunite and go hunting in the woods where something sinister may or may not have happened years before. What could possibly go wrong?
The film’s opening sequence not only provides some family history, but it also immediately sets the tone of the film. It then shifts into more of a family narrative designed to explain the dynamic of the brothers’ relationship. I would have preferred much of the character exploration to have occurred once the brothers were already in the woods, as that would have provided an opportunity to create a longer lasting sense of unease for the audience.
Various conversations revealed a ton of information about the family dynamic as well as the mysterious area. Such information provided different possibilities as to what may occur on this particular hunting trip. At any given time, my brain played with numerous directions and outcomes that the story could take, and that unpredictability engrossed me. Although sometimes the characters made choices that felt very incongruous with who they were, I don’t believe Tim Brown intentionally tried to provide misdirection. I suspect he wanted to make sure we fully understood the mindset of these brothers. Yet in doing so, he provided a bit too much reiteration regarding why they were estranged and the sibling issues they experienced.
The film alternated between wide grand shots and more intimate footage, with a score that tended on the heavy side to enhance the tension. In some instances it proved effective, and in others not so much. Although some of the earlier dialogue scenes felt unnecessarily redundant, Tim Brown’s film achieves legitimately scary moments while maintaining a reasonable running time.
Scenes like the brilliant pool sequence in the Swedish film Let the Right One In, where we only catch glimpses of what’s happening but we know exactly what’s going on, prove more powerful. Devil in the Dark divvies out similar glimpses at times, but it also shows too much at times. Despite its flaws, Devil in the Dark succeeds at offering some truly chilling moments. In a genre where storylines are often painfully predictable, it offers a level of uncertainty which generates sufficient tension.
Devil in the Dark will be available on VOD March 7.