Ginger Nuts of Horror
Dark Was the Night is directed by Jack Heller and written by Tyler Hisel. This is Heller’s second outing as a director but he has produced several movies. Kevin Durand plays the main character, Sheriff Paul Shields, and Luke Haas plays his deputy Donny Saunders. They get the party started with a nice little bang of blood and gore. It actually reminded me of some old X-Files episodes where they started with the men logging in a dense forest area and appear to disturb something’s territory only to quickly pay for it. Once the viewer is given the critical set up information that the main character must ultimately discover we settle in for a slow burn build, progressively adding layers of creepy events and hints at what the underlying cause may be before the big reveal. One early scene is particularly creepy though subtle in the delivery.
Kevin Durand gives an outstanding and authoritative performance as the Sheriff. The sub plot of his struggle with grief over the loss of a child and the subsequent separation from his wife due to his inability to adapt and move on is affective and full of emotion. Durand’s ability to express Shield’s angst and despair is superb, his face the epitome of anguish. I appreciated that the writer and director used actions, well-chosen settings and great facial expressions to reveal the story of the Sheriff’s grief rather than simply lumping it into some wordy reveal all at once. The supporting cast all do a commendable job as well, enabling the director to create a very genuine and sincere fiction that sits heavy, sucks you in and holds onto you for the duration.
There is an appropriate level of skepticism to begin with along with diligent research to figure things out but I would have liked to see Sheriff Shields accept what was happening and take a more proactive approach a little sooner (I would have). However, once he does it is an appropriate response and plays out well. Circumstances reach a dire crescendo as a huge storm rolls in and everyone in the city who didn’t bug out are trapped there overnight, leaving them utterly vulnerable to the threat which is now hunting them outright. As conditions quickly become more calamitous the people who are left in town gather together at the local church to hole up and make a stand. Hope becomes the theme both for Sheriff Shields and his family as well as for the town’s people at large. Hope for survival, for holding out until the morning when 2 dozen park rangers arrive to assist in hunting down the creature. As one character says “Hope, sometimes it’s all you’ve got.” Sheriff Shields emboldens everyone by telling them he believes they can make it while inside he is struggling with incredible self-doubt. Sheriff Shields, with the help of his wife has to try to square with the past and embrace hope for overcoming his grief, for reconciliation with his wife and redemption for his failure to protect his lost child by protecting those under his care now.
The showdown with the creature is a mix of tense cat and mouse stalking and counter stalking with brutal onslaughts, as both creature and law men attempt to be the predator and not the prey. It definitely kept me on edge the whole time.
My only complaints are twofold. One, and this is just me, I didn’t like the face of the creature. I thought the rest of it was superbly done but the face just didn’t ring true with me for what they revealed it to be. Perhaps if it was supposed to be something else I would have thought it was cool and unique like my wife did. The teeth alone were quite impressive. But for me, cool doesn’t necessarily make it fit right. Secondly, I hated the ending. The last ten seconds seem tacked on and inconsistent with the rest of the movie. I wanted to throw something at the TV. I could explain my reason more but it would reveal too much. Don’t let my thoughts on the ending stop you from watching it, though. It is a fabulous creature movie where man finds out there are other things on the food chain higher than him, yet struggles valiantly together in an attempt to overcome internal and external conflicts and live to see the rewards of victory.