Devil in the Dark

| March 6, 2017

Since the advent of cheap camera drone technology over the last few years, more and more films have succumbed to the temptation of far too many gratuitous drone shots. There’s no question that good drone footage can enhance a film’s production value, but it’s easy for a filmmaker excited for this new toy to overuse it. And this isn’t just a problem with low-budget independent productions. There are certain types of stories that do lend themselves to significant use of this technology, though. Devil in the Dark is one of these, a film that takes place mostly in beautiful but intimidating mountains and wilderness far away from civilization. It’s a great example of a film that uses technology in order to effectively tell its story instead of substituting technology for the story.

Clint (Dan Payne) lives with his wife and two kids in the house where he and his brother Adam (Robin Dunne) grew up. Adam hasn’t been back to his hometown in over a decade, and in the intervening time Clint cared for their sick father until his death. When Adam returns to spend time with Clint, Clint decides they will do an “old school” hunting trip up to the plateau that Adam hasn’t seen since a mysterious incident on a hunting trip when he was four years old. Adam’s townie buddies warn him that there are stories of something dangerous out in the mountains, but Clint is convinced Adam’s skittishness is due to big city living having turned him soft. The brothers strike out deep into the wild, but when they reach the plateau they discover an ominous cave and soon find themselves hunted by something they can’t explain.

Shot in British Columbia, Devil in the Dark takes full advantage of its location. Director Tim Brown and cinematographer Philip Lanyon use beautiful drone photography that effectively conveys the scope of the vast wilderness and the isolation of the two lead characters as they venture further and further into the unknown. There are some truly breathtaking shots, but rather than distract from the story that drives the film they enhance it. Most of the film takes place in the present as the adult brothers fight for their lives, but there are parallel flashbacks that fill in the details of their shared childhood. The story is familiar but well-executed, with Payne and Dunne giving a pair of solid lead performances.

Once the film turns into a fairly straightforward stalk and chase in the woods, it loses some of its focus on the relationship between the two brothers. This is a little disappointing, but Brown stages a few tense set pieces that keep the momentum building through the final act. At under 80 minutes minus credits, Devil in the Dark is briskly paced throughout, and never wears out its welcome. It’s also appreciated that the nature of the thing in the woods is never directly spelled out, although some viewers may be more annoyed by this than enjoy the lingering mystery. It’s a tight, tense thriller that is beautifully shot, and well worth a look for horror fans.

Momentum Pictures released Devil in the Dark on VOD 7 March 2017.

About the Author:

Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He is author of "The Unrepentant Cinephile," and a regular contributor to Daily Grindhouse and Film Monthly as well as a member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle. He is co-director of the Chicago Cinema Society and proud owner of 35mm prints of Andy Milligan's "Guru, the Mad Monk." Follow his long-form film writing on Medium:

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