Even easy-to-please horror fans must be exhausted by the genre’s tropes.
- Young, pretty casts
- Cabins in the woods
- Masked killers with their own theme music
It’s why “Out of Darkness” feels refreshing from the jump.
The story is set 45,000 years in the past. Suffice it to say no one’s taking selfies or dreading prom night.
The film’s stark setting sets it apart from most genre films. If only the story’s key twist felt more organic it might have turned “Darkness” into an instant classic.
“Out of Darkness” follows a tight-knit clan searching for a new land to call home. Their needs are simple. Shelter. Food. Warmth.
The patriarch Adem (Chuku Modu) is cocksure and brave, and he’ll need both qualities to tend to his starving partner Ave (Iola Evans).
Odal the elder (Arno Luening) throws cold water on Adem’s plan, his skepticism giving the film’s first act some bite. Young Beyah (Safia Oakley-Green) is dubbed a “stray,” someone who travels with the group but has no blood ties.
Yes, that matters.
A new threat emerges that shoves Odal’s doubts aside. Something sinister lurks on the outskirts of their camp. Is it the demons that wait in the unexplored dark? Or something even worse?
We’ve seen this scenario before. A group is set upon by a mysterious force and, one by one, their numbers dwindle. In horror parlance that’s called a body count.
That template rarely feels as primal as what “Out of Darkness” delivers. The main characters communicate well, but they rely on their senses – taste, touch and smell – to guide their decisions.
That leaves poor Beyah more vulnerable than the others. She is becoming a woman, a development Adem notes with brute interest.
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First-time feature director Andrew Cumming impresses in virtually every category that counts. He’s created a stone-age environment that looks and feels authentic, down to the dirt-streaked faces of his characters. He uses the natural terrain to build suspense and uncertainty, and the early attacks on the clan are ferocious.
The cast effectively suggests a primitive culture dealing with an unknown force. There’s no humor here, nor moments that connect to modern times.
The emergence of one character, though, is very much a 2024 construct. That’s all the spoiler alert required.
The film moves at a slower pace than most thrillers but the smaller details keep our attention. The rest is how primitive souls process an existential threat.
The third act ratchets up the excitement, but a sizable reveal does the story few favors when compared to earlier sequences. The screenplay, often pedestrian due to the confines of the culture, takes a stab at dramatic relevance in its waning moments.
The results underwhelm.
“Out of Darkness” earns points for painting on a bright new canvas, and even its flaws can’t hide the joys from that risk-taking effort.
HiT or Miss: “Out of Darkness” is an impressive debut for director Andrew Cumming, but a nod to modern times sours the film’s critical moments.