J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Devil in the Dark: The Hunters become the Hunted (as per Usual)

In horror films, it is always open season on hunters. Technically, they can shoot back, but that rarely makes much difference. Two semi-estranged brothers will really make it ridiculously easy for the malevolent entity, hiking miles off the beaten path to the shunned plateau no rational outdoorsmen has set foot on since the disappearance of so-and-so. They basically deliver themselves into the clutches of dread in Tim Brown’s Devil in the Dark (trailer here), which releases today on DVD from Momentum Pictures.

One dark and stormy night, six-year-old-ish Adam got lost in the woods.  Eventually, his father found him, but ever since that day, he has been a crybaby who hates the outdoors lifestyle—perhaps with good reason. We soon suspect the strange evil thing in the woods somehow marked him that night. Regardless, Clint becomes the perfect Eagle Scout son, while Adam becomes an irresponsible dropout. On a rare visit home, Adam suggests a camping trip as a way to mend his relationship with his brother, but Clint turns it into a hunting expedition instead—with disastrous consequences.

From the Biblically bickering brothers to the It in the woods, Devil closely follows a numbers of time honored genre traditions. However, the quality of the productions pegs it a few notches above average. Cinematographer Philip Lanyon conveys the cold, dark vastness of the mountains with some stunning wide vista shots. Dan Payne is also all kinds of salt-of-the-earth as Clint, the sporty brother, whereas Robin Dunne is totally annoying as Adam, the squirrely one. Still, there are just about zero surprises in store for anyone who watches at least a half dozen horror films over the course of an average year. However, at least they have the sense to say “let’s get out of here” when things really start getting messed up.

Devil has a strong sense of place (wild and woolly British Columbia) and the brothers’ convincingly dysfunctional relationship feels like it truly goes back years. It is impressively produced, but Brown never comes up with a concept (gimmick) to differentiate it from dozens of previous films. Recommended as a respectable horror fix for fans, but not a crossover-breakout, Devil in the Dark is now available on VOD platforms, from Momentum Pictures.

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