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Monday, February 4, 2019

Review: The Dark

Director: Justin P. Lange
Screenplay: Justin P. Lange
Year: 2018

In “The Dark” an undead girl who feeds on humans befriends a blind boy. They get to know each other when he gets to the forest she lives and hunts in, known as Devil’s Den because of the atrocities that take place there. Both of them have been abuse victims and they find solace with each other. Once together, their particular path towards healing starts, but more death and violence await.

“The Dark” starts when Josef Hofer, interpreted by Karl Markovics (“Die Fälscher”), arrives at a place in the woods known as Devil’s Den. Before reaching this place, Josef is warned about the atrocities that take place there in a scene that leaves no doubt that Josef is a dangerous man and he will pay no attention to the advice. Shortly after arriving at this place, he bumps into Mina, interpreted by Nadia Alexander (“Blame”), the one responsible for what happens there and he gets to know first-hand what she is capable of. The motives for what Josef could be doing in a place like that are unclear, but at this moment this character serves as a vector to know the fury of Mina and to introduce Alex, interpreted by Toby Nichols (“Iron Fist”). Alex is a boy that is blind and has horrible scars in his eyes who traveled with Josef, presumably kidnapped, for whom Mina feels compassion and decides to help him.

Once Mina and Alex get to know each other, the similarities between them are clear. Both have been victims of atrocious abuse and this argument is used as a pivot to develop the plot and analogies. While Mina, who was brutally murdered in the same forest decades before and still symbolically and physically carries the scars of that act, decides to use vengeance as a coping mechanism unleashing her wrath upon anyone that dares roam the place she inhabits, Alex blames himself and justifies the abuse, being his mutilated ayes that symbology of not wanting to see its abuser as such and prefers to justify him.

All this story takes place mainly in the forest that is the home of Mina. In this full-length film debut of director and screenwriter Justin P. Lange, we are offered some exquisite visuals. Wide shots with little movement are regularly used, making the most out of the natural quality of the surroundings to enhance emotional and tense moments effectively and eye-catching. Following that line, the visual effects are very polished; the make-up of Mina as the violent scenes, it all enjoys plenty of realism and evoke the right feeling for the situation.

Where “The Dark” fails is in the development of the plot. Lange decided to base his story in child abuse, but this becomes too emotional. In this decision, it errs in the rhythm of the plot, which relies too much on dialogues between the protagonists, who even though they make an excellent work, can become monotonous and slow. It also misses the mark as a horror movie. While it is true that child abuse is a horrible act, it does not mean it will be a good topic for a horror movie and even more when it is used as a conducting thread, leaving horror elements to a second plane with a merely symbolic function. Similarly, the re-humanization of a victim that has become a monster due to the abuses lived can be very symbolic, but not so horrific, even worse when this monster is a girl who came back from the dead and terrorizes the forest she lives at.

“The Dark” as the first full-length movie of Lange seemed to me like a good opportunity to expose his style, ideas, and talent. As a horror movie, it fails in many components, principally in that the plot is reduced to an emotional drama of abuse victims trying to recover and all horror elements are used to emphasize this idea and are pushed to a second plane. The visual richness does not compensate for a slow plot that in some parts approaches boredom.

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