Devil in the Dark is a new horror film from director Tim Brown, and follows two adult brothers who go on a hunting trip. What should be a bonding experience turns into a fight for survival as the two brothers encounter a supernatural creature from their past. The film has a solid premise that seems straight out of a Stephen King short story. The film, like many King stories, is focused on the character drama and less on the monster. It takes quite a while for the creature to even show up and most of the film is about the estranged siblings trying to work through their familial issues.
The movie does a good job of establishing the characters and their motivations. We come to understand why the brothers were estranged and their complicated relationship with their father. Now while these elements are in place to make a nice horror story, sadly there are many problems holding the film back. Pardon the pun, but the devil is in the details.
The script has some glaring issues and they primarily come from the dialogue. Most of it is very exposition heavy and it detracts from the realistic tone that the film attempts to establish. Scenes that stretch on far too long and there are some awkward attempts at humor.
The acting is the second miss here as the cast is just not selling it. The main offender comes from Dan Payne who plays the older brother, Clint. Payne’s first scene is about laying off workers and his attempt at empathetic frustration is terrible. The rest of the cast is not much better, and Robin Dunne, who plays Clint’s younger brother, Adam, just seems angry and annoyed throughout the entire film. The best performance is by Daniel Cudmore who plays the father of the brothers. His scenes were regulated to flashbacks, but his performance came across as extremely genuine.
In terms of direction and cinematography, there is an overuse of pan and overhead shots. Normally, these shots are used to depict scale and grandeur. They reveal the landscape and show the audience the scope of the environment. While a significant part of the story takes place in the forest, these shots do not coincide with the theme of the movie. The film emphasizes horror and drama which requires intimacy by the camera. The pan and overhead shots are superfluous and only seem to pad the runtime. Despite this issue, there are some great scenes of horror. There is an intense moment where we get to look through the lens of a hunting rifle and another one where one of the characters has to go through a cave.
My final bit of criticism is the score. It was very orchestral and bombastic, which made it feel grandiose. This is a strange decision because the content of the film is supposed to be intimate. This type of music is best used for films that are meant to be epic with plenty of scenes of action, but here it feels awkward with the film’s slower pace.
It’s always nice to see a horror movie made with a modest budget with a focus on believable characters. There are plenty of thrilling moments and the character’s realistic relationships contribute to the intensity of these scenes. It’s just unfortunate that the film falters because of several poor directional decisions.
Devil in the Dark will be released in theaters and on VOD on March 7, 2017.