Written and directed by Justin P. Lange, THE DARK is a tragic tale that ventures into traumatic territories while striking a compassionate nerve simultaneously. Mysteriously alone and hungry for flesh, adolescent Mina (Nadia Alexander) stalks the forests surrounding the Devil’s Den, an area said to be haunted by a deadly creature (IE Mina) where individuals have been known to disappear. While coming across a kidnapped and abused boy (Toby Nichols) in the trunk of a car, Mina finds herself feeling compassion and the need to protect him instead of the usual latter, leading them down a path of connection and dark secrets.
As a whole, this film has me sitting very oddly on the fence about many things surrounding the story. The plot feels a little scattered, with Mina’s flesh-eating condition being very ambiguous. Throughout the film’s entirety, I am incredibly unsure about what Mina has transformed in to. I’ve seen a few reviews claiming zombies, but if that’s the case, I feel that aspect is poorly executed and explained badly (due to reasons I won’t mention to avoid spoilers). It felt more like some form of demonic pact brought about through abuse, anger, death, and then resurrection, but my surety has little to back that up. The story floats along slowly for a majority of the film and then gets pretty clustered towards the climax, cramming a lot into a limited time frame.
THE DARK‘s focus rests mainly upon the bond that grows between Mina and Alex. Weighing heavy on a Let The Right One In motif (which I love), the two characters connect through trauma and circumstance, forming something very deep and transformative. They are shining and misunderstood lights in a world of cruel and murderous adults. Alex appears to break through Mina’s blood-driven animalistic nature and brings out the empathy that was presumably there all along. He allows her to feel human again, and we as the audience get to experience the disappearing of her demonic veil that controls her life. This notion can also lead one to believe that perhaps Mina’s current state is metaphorical, as abused individuals put up walls to protect themselves, causing them to feel angry, shut out, and alone. Towards the end, Mina makes giant strides to feel almost like a real person again.
With the housing of great practical effects that tag alongside some wicked death scenes, THE DARK portrays a uniqueness into the genre that feels new yet nostalgic. The element of gore delivers and will keep horror fans happy, while the connection between the two adolescents allows audience members to get wrapped up inside of a deep story. Though the pace and premise could use a quick polish, The Dark holds its own well while containing very natural and attractive cinematography. The actors portray their roles beautifully, creating a meaningful and believable bond between two damaged strangers set out to live normal lives again.