hoof tracks are traditionally a bad sign, at least when they were made by a
two-legged creature. That was no deer striding through Sheriff Paul Shields’
logging hamlet. Something sinister is definitely lurking in those woods and it
is getting increasingly aggressive in Jack Heller’s Dark was the Night (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.
horses and dogs have mysteriously disappeared, but Shields really doesn’t care.
He is too busy blaming himself for the death of his youngest son. Although he
has separated from his wife Susan, he still tries to be a proactive father to their
remaining son Adam. However, he has to start sheriffing in earnest when the
town wakes up to find unusually large and apparently upright cloven hoof prints
snaking their way from one end of town to the other. Having absorbed scores of
Native American legends about vengeful natural spirits, everyone basically
freaks—and they’re not wrong.
the awkward and pretentious syntax of Dark’s
title evokes the cheesy, overwrought horror novels of the early 1980s. However,
for a film about a big evil thing making dodo in the woods, it is remarkably
restrained. Probably more time is allotted to seriously addressing Shields’
grief and guilt than monster attacks. While that might not sit well with genre
fans, it is actually not a bad thing, thanks largely due to the strength of
Kevin Durand’s performance. He is a big guy, but as Sheriff Shields, he looks
drawn and haggard, like he hasn’t had a good night’s sleep since Johnny Carson
retired. Even in a non-genre film, the honesty and commitment of his work would
Dark is indeed an
unusually character-driven horror film, offering up a tortured sidekick to its
angst ridden protagonist. Lukas Haas (yes, that Witness Haas) is also quite down-to-earth and flinty as Donny
Saunders, a former NYPD officer wounded in the line of duty, now serving as
Shields’ deputy. They play off each other nicely, navigating the territory just
in-between friends and colleagues. Budding cult superstar Nick Damici also gets
to chew some scenery as the spooky trash-talking saloon-keeper.
is one of the few films that is better at interpersonal relationships than
at going about its horror business. Still, Heller and screenwriter Tyler Hisel
give the standard “gotcha” monster movie ending a bit of a half twist. Far
better than you would expect, especially given the eye-rolling title, Dark was the Night (it sounds like
something Yoda might say) is recommended for fans of small town supernatural
fare when it opens tomorrow (7/24) in
New York, at the AMC Empire.
Labels: Horror Movies, Kevin Durand, Nick Damici