Dark Was The Night: Kevin Durand Delivers His Best Performance in This Gloomy Monster Thriller [Review]

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From Caliber Media Company and director Jack Heller (Enter Nowhere), comes the horror thriller Dark Was The Night. Starring Kevin Durand (The Strain), Lukas Haas (Mars Attacks) and Nick Damici (Stakeland), the film is available in limited theaters and VOD now.

Isolated and threatened, a mysterious force hidden within the trees outside the small town of Maiden Woods, strikes fear in the townspeople as Sheriff Paul Shields attempts to overcome the demons of his past while protecting those that he loves.

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Originally titled ‘The Trees’, this film was named one of the top 100 scripts of the year when it was floating around pre-production. I can certainly understand why, because Dark Was The Night is as cerebral as it is suspenseful. Centered on a small town in the northern parts of the United States, a logging company inadvertently disturbs something ferocious after hacking down a bunch of trees. We get a short but effective intro of a few guys in orange helmets getting killed by an unseen horror – it’s standard stuff but it worked due to clever camera angles. After that we bounce to a sheriff, played wonderfully by Kevin Durand, as he struggles with the loss of a young child and fractured family as a result of the tragedy – all of which happened before the events of the film.

That aspect alone is what sets Dark Was The Night apart from your typical monster movies and what it truly did throughout, was make the audience feel worried for these characters’ safety. Because these people suffered such unspeakable horror, prior to getting wrapped up in today’s horrible events, we end up more attached to them as a result. Actually caring what happens to your main character(s) in a horror movie is always the goal as a filmmaker and director Jack Heller has succeeded tremendously in doing just that.

Based on an actual phenomenon that happened in England many, many years ago – this small town awakens to find a trail of two-legged hoofed footprints making their way to nearly every single home in one night. Needless to say it freaks them out because deer aren’t going to be walking on their hind legs like a bunch of freaks… So people assume the worst and maybe a touch of Satan for fun. To make matters worst, animals begin to disappear because you know, Satan’s gotta eat — yo pets.

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The monster element of the film was handled well, although at times I felt myself wondering how our main character continues to assume pranksters are the main cause after several disturbing encounters he has with the beast personally. Due to never actually seeing it’s face, I guess he never truly believes the worst until the evidence piles up so high it’s impossible to ignore it any longer. I loved how they used these dark and blue colors to filter the film, adding this chilling effect to the whole thing. When we were drawn into Durand’s face or we were forced into his dark and unforgiving world of remorse, the film worked better as a result. It’s a heartbreaking loss that our lead has suffered and as we go on that journey with him, the movie excels tremendously. Without that subplot, I fear Dark Was The Night wouldn’t be nearly as memorable.

Supporting performances by Lukas Haas and Nick Damici (the badass vamp hunter from Stakeland) both feel real and add to the roster a great depth of talent in an otherwise typical creature feature. There was not one weak or unrealistic performance to be found here and that’s a rarity in most low budget horror flicks. Dark Was The Night stands above most of the pack because of this, especially when it comes to leading man Kevin Durand who delivers the best acting performance of his career. Durand has turned in a great deal of memorable and supporting performances, playing larger than life characters but his turn as the leading man in Dark Was The Night has proven him capable of carrying an entire film with tremendous range. He’s not some action hero or monster slaying badass – he’s a vulnerable and broken man who is struggling to keep his family together but is forced to carry the weight of this terror that has engulfed his community. Durand is spectacular and he needs to lead more films – he’s earned that.

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If I had one critique of Dark Was The Night, it would be the creature reveal (more specifically it’s appearance) towards the end of the movie after such agonizing build-up. Because of this and this alone, it subtracted from a great and suspenseful experience beforehand. And that’s a shame. However, as I mentioned before – the movie is still worth your time because the writing, gloomy atmosphere and wonderful performance from Durand are all so powerful that Dark Was The Night still edges out most of it’s monstrous competition.

Rating:

Major Spoilers for The Ending:

The creature design was flawed tremendously… After we were being led to believe that the monster would resemble a Wendigo, what we wound up getting – didn’t work.. After seeing so many great shots of the creature’s feet (practical effects I would assume), I was hopeful that the beast would be entirely composed of a man in a monster suit… I was wrong. Granted we were given mostly quick CGI shots of the monster running into the bushes throughout the movie, we never had a good look at the thing until the end.

I assumed the CGI was going to be dropped for the close-up and I wish it had been, because when slowed down and given a long look at the thing – it wasn’t frightening and more importantly – it didn’t look right….They opted for a reptilian appearance from the waist up. The silhouette was atrocious and at a distance the thing looked like it didn’t have a head. The color was also grey and didn’t look at all like the feet and legs had teased prior to the big reveal and showdown in the church.  The shocking end and set up for a sequel that we likely won’t get was a nice touch but I don’t think it was enough because having more of the same thing that didn’t scare me after seeing it up close, doesn’t seem appealing anymore.

 

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