Overview: Two brothers aim to reconnect on a hunting trip, but encounter more than prey in the forest. Momentum Pictures; 2017, Not Rated; 82 minutes.
Don’t Look Now: Tim Brown’s Devil in the Dark starts with a bang, an eerie dark forest, a frantic father and a lost child. Young Adam (Robin Dunne) has been separated from his brother and dad, and stands in a frozen terror looking deep between the trees. He’s nearly swallowed up by his red jacket and his gaping, empty eyes. Immediately the movie promises to be a supernatural thrill, and I settled deep in to find out just what was lurking out there that scared that kid so bad. Devil in the Dark was filmed in the beautiful interior of British Columbia, and anyone who’s been into the woods there knows just how endless they are and how easy it would be to become terribly lost and let the imagination conjure the worst.
Slippery Slopes: This strong set-up made allowances for the clunky dialogue at the start of Devil in the Dark, but just couldn’t make up for the slough of tropes and ultimate letdown that were to follow. Fast-forward several years and we are formally introduced to Adam, the irresponsible “city boy” who grew up misunderstood, and Clint (Dan Payne) the responsible, favoured son who stepped into his father’s role without question. There’s demons here, and family drama can make a heady potion of horror. “He left you the business, he left you the truck, what else did he leave you with?” a jealous Adam pokes. “Guilt,” Clint replies, just barely well enough to not be hackneyed. Adam and Clint have decided to reconnect over a 6 day hunting trip up to the plateau. It’s a tale as old as time, some wayward soul from the town went up there one time he never came back. Adam’s nervous but Clint insists they do things the old-fashioned way, and off they go. The problem is, neither of them really want to be there. Between tired dialogue about the difference of city and country living, there are moments of honesty and realness between the brothers throughout Devil in the Dark, but they bicker incessantly. Watching them jab each other with petty insults makes you want to slap them both upside the head and force them to hold hands, or at the very least just give up and go home.
A Boy and his Gun: With the use of flashbacks and nightmares in Devil in the Dark the story takes a kind of sentimental turn around hunting and the bond between a boy, his dad, and his guns. Adam and Clint are so different not only in appearance but also mannerisms and habits. Apparently their father had no clue how to interact with a son who didn’t take to his favourite pastime, shooting bucks. There’s some tears and looking at guns, admittedly a theme I just couldn’t connect with or understand. As a whole the movie is extremely bro-heavy. The only women are wives in wifely roles, and the warmth they bring to the screen and dialogue is sadly missed when the guys head into the mountains. These scenes are long and arduous and completely lacking in horror except for a couple occurrences of an inhuman scream. At this point it becomes apparent that Devil in the Dark is more about the heavy guilt and jealousy that Clint and Adam feel about each other and their father. This is the type of content that makes horror bold and relevant, but it misses the mark through weak performances and tired tropes. Still it inspires a tiny flame of human empathy for two dudes who just can’t quite get it together.
Overall: What Adam and Clint finally find up on the plateau is spooky: a deep mystery crowned with horns draws them closer to what lies inside. Unfortunately its ultimate reveal is lacking, confusing, and not quite worth the hike. It goes out as well as it starts with a daring, abrupt ending. It’s a little thin around the middle, but Devil in the Dark knows how to use scenery, at the very least.
Feature Image: Momentum Pictures