Welcome to Ireland! Potatoes, Whiskey, Vampires?
From the Dark is a single location horror film from Irish writer/director Conor McMahon (Stitches). Set in the Irish countryside the premise is simple enough:
Unaware of the fact that digging holes on Irish farms is an extremely dangerous activity to engage in, a farmer (Gerry O’Brien) discovers a body while digging a hole on his Irish farm. The body turns out not to be dead (but rather undead) and shenanigans ensue. Meanwhile a young couple (Niamh Algar and Stephen Cromwell) out for holiday happen to wander into the wrong place after their car gets stuck in the mud. From there it’s simply a matter of survival for the couple while the creature stalks them throughout the night. We learn quickly the monster is allergic to light of any kind (the brighter the better), then watch as the couple try to figure a way off the farm with what little illumination they can find.
The reviews I’ve seen online focus on the limited scope and simplicity as reasons for disappointment. The general consensus is that From the Dark takes a basic horror plot and does almost nothing with it, leaving audiences underwhelmed and frustrated.
I disagree. From the Dark’s simplicity turns out to be a hidden strength. McMahon keeps a nice steady pace throughout the film, never letting it drag but also never rushing too quickly from one scene to the next. The film is shot almost entirely at night making it a dark film on screen which works well to set the atmosphere and environment through which the creature lurks in and out of the shadows. A technique I rather enjoyed. Not seeing the monster up close, but rather outlined in the background keeps the focus on the couple and their ordeal. As a viewer it helps create a feeling that you’re standing next to the couple, trapped in the same situation.
The monster (which may or may not be a vampire) looks very familiar. Most genre fans will see some resemblance, especially when it’s hands splay outward from it’s hips, long nail-like claws glowing in the moonlight. It’s creepy and fun.
So why are the reviews online lukewarm to crapfest? I have no idea but I’ll speculate. Horror film fans and critics can be ruthless when it comes to critical analysis of the genre. Genre fans understand that most horror films are formulaic or derivative so they look for uniqueness, style and over-the-top antics to set one film apart from it’s predecessors. Makers of horror films know this and often get caught up in trying to set their movie apart and forget the basics. I feel for the filmmakers. It’s difficult to create original spin on rehashed ideas but fans hope for that each time a new slasher, zombie, monster, murder, mayhem, creature feature film gets released. This is why From the Dark deserves a lot of credit. McMahon doesn’t do anything flashy. Doesn’t throw in a twist for shock value. Doesn’t worry about backstory, exposition or details. He focuses in on the nuts and bolts of what makes good horror good horror – simplicity.
From the Dark is available on Blu-ray for $10 and I recommend you take a look.