Dark Was the Night (2014)
[THERE ARE NO SPOILER IMAGES OF THE CREATURE IN THIS REVIEW]
Is there anything better than a good creature flick? Creature flicks have so much potential and are limited only by the mind and imagination of the writer. Like most people my age, my first introduction to creature flicks were GODZILLA movies and all the various creatures he fought (the smog monster was one of my favorites). But think about more modern-day creature features. Films like THE DESCENT and THE BAY take the traditional creature flick setup and really run with it. THE DESCENT was both terrifying and horrifying. So when I came across DARK WAS THE NIGHT, I couldn’t wait to get my eyes on it. DARK WAS THE NIGHT did not disappoint, and whereas it may not have put a new spin on the creature feature sub-genre, it does deliver the good stuff.
DARK WAS THE NIGHT was directed by Jack Heller and written by Tyler Hisel. This is Heller’s first foray into the horror genre and though he has a ton of producer credits–including 2013s BAD MILO and the upcoming Kurt Russell horror film, BONE TOMAHAWK–this is his first creature flick. Heller has a fantastic eye for horror. He sets a terrific tone and really knows how to build up the tension and suspense. Hisel writes some fantastic characters that were beautifully played by the talented cast.
The film begins in a more remote part of the woods where a logging company sets up shop and begins tearing down trees. When the shift ends, the foreman realizes he has a few missing workers. He sets out to the work site and finds the bodies of his men torn apart. The foreman, of course, realizes too late that something is very wrong and meets a similar fate to the others. We then flash over to the town of Maiden Woods, about twenty miles from the logging site. The sheriff of the town, Sheriff Shields (Kevin Durand), is dealing with his marriage ending, is grieving over a traumatic event that recently happened to his family, and is training a new deputy, Donny (Lukas Haas), when the townspeople start reporting some kind of odd creature stalking around the town. No one has actually seen the creature, but multiple witnesses report something looking through their windows, hunters report that there’s no wildlife in the woods, and there’s huge foot prints in the snow down the center of the town’s main street.
Sheriff Shields and Donny do some investigating and realize that some kind of unknown animal or creature has come to Maiden Woods and is calling it home. Heller really takes his time building up the tension until the final confrontation between the Sheriff and the creature. There’s not too much that is new or original going on here, but DARK WAS THE NIGHT was so much fun that you won’t care. The characters felt real and weren’t over-the-top. Durand does a fantastic job in his role as a man tormented by his past. Durand really shows he’s got some serious acting chops. Haas also does a good job as the transplanted New Yorker who relocated to the boonies. The supporting cast was also strong, but this film was definitely Durand’s–although Nick Damici almost steals the show as Earl, a bar owner and hunter pissed off by the lack of wildlife in the woods.
I also like how Hisel keeps the viewer guessing as to the nature of the creature. Yes, it is obvious early on that there’s some kind of monster in the woods killing people, but we don’t really know until the end exactly what it is. Is it supernatural in nature? Is it the ghost of some pissed off spirit? Is it a Wendigo? Is it Bigfoot? Hell, is it an alien? We just don’t know, and there’s enough evidence early on in the film to suggest that it might be any of these things. Once the real nature of the creature is revealed, it was completely satisfying, and the design of the creature was pretty bad ass, although I wish we saw more of it.
There will be some viewers who will think DARK WAS THE NIGHT is too chatty and doesn’t show enough of the monster, but I think this was done on purpose. The dialogue wasn’t being used by Heller in order to pad out the film. We get some fantastic character development, especially with Durand’s Sheriff Shields. The characters are well-written and go through a lot of changes over the course of the film. Actual character development, people!! DARK WAS THE NIGHT was an enjoyable film from beginning to end and is a great entry into the “creature feature” sub-genre. Highly recommend.
Director: Jack Heller
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 4 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer