“Coming Home in the Dark” initially seems like one other entry in that subcategory of horror movies the place smooth pampered metropolis folks exit into the nation to be terrorized by the locals. However whereas it cleaves to that template for a short time, this debut characteristic from New Zealand filmmaker James Ashcroft quickly reveals one other story layer that complicates our sympathies. All through, the savage depth of the central predicament retains tightening the thumbscrews on the viewers and elevating questions of how far a movie can go to make audiences anxious and fearful earlier than it begins to really feel like wanton viewers abuse posing as one thing extra rarified.
The story begins with a gradual monitoring shot throughout a desolate freeway, revealing an automotive deserted by the facet of the street, private results scattered about, driver’s facet door cracked open. It is a beautiful opening shot, and there are loads of extra moments prefer it: lovely, ominous, unsettling, utilizing the panorama in a manner that is concurrently menacing/desolate and possessed of otherworldly magnificence. Ashcroft—who co-wrote the script with Eli Kent, from a brief story by Owen Marshall—has that David Cronenberg present for icy precision and tonal management, the place the filmmaking fills the viewer with dread earlier than the credit have even completed. One thing horrible goes to occur, most likely greater than as soon as, and also you’re simply gonna have to attend for it.
The automotive belongs to a nuclear household on vacation. The daddy, Hoagie (Erik Thomson), is a white man of Dutch descent who has labored as an instructor and a professor for a very long time. His spouse Jill (Miriama McDowell) seems to be Indigenous, and their tousle-haired teenaged sons, Maika and Jordan (Billy and Frankie Pantene), are good-looking, talkative, and clearly very shut to one another and their mom (although one has unarticulated points along with his dad). The household’s two tormentors, who emerge from the comb because the household is stress-free after a picnic, demographically echo the household: there is a charismatic, chattering white sadist named Mandrake (Daniel Gillies), after the magician; and a stone-cold-silent Indigenous man referred to as Tubs (Mathias Luafutu).
I point out the culture-clash facet of the casting not as a result of the movie does so much with it, however as a result of it fails to essentially delve into it. That is the most important missed alternative of the film, which has a fashion to burn however (alas) questionable management over the bigger which means of what it reveals us. It is laborious to inform if it is a case of straightforward neglect and obliviousness or if the filmmakers have been afraid to go there as a result of they did not wish to overcomplicate the dynamic of tormentor/tormented (or in the event that they forged the film diversely as a result of that is what filmmakers are anticipated to do now, without pausing to suppose by the implications of that casting). The unhealthy guys have an agenda and are available able to spring a number of narrative twists with ripped-from-the-headlines resonance. However, their motivation is finally fairly easy. It is most likely greatest to go away it to the viewer to determine precisely what I imply by that, as it is an uncommon movie the place merely to debate it’s to provide away its purpose for being.
Regardless: the movie settles right into a kind of “Desperate Hours” or “Funny Games” or “Cape Fear” or “Key Largo” mode, with a self-absorbed, merciless man verbally and bodily tormenting hostages with help from a number of hench-persons who maintain their very own counsel and harbor their very own secrets and techniques. The opening act of the movie is so devastatingly merciless that I do not know if the film might’ve recovered from it even when it had taken an extra nuanced and delicate strategy to the dynamics of the abductors and their hostages. The film simply dies and by no means solely returns to inventive life besides as a grindingly merciless abstraction, Mandrake’s low-cost Max Cady managing numerous sardonic one-liners and musings (when he talks to different characters, he usually appears to be saying what he’d say to himself if no one else has been round) and sometimes commanding or collaborating in a savage act.
The filmmaking and performing expertise on the show are simple. It is best to count on to see the names of editor Annie Collins and cinematographer Matt Henley on big-budget motion and horror movies, and Gillies taking part in verbose, vicious unhealthy man roles if he needs to go that route. Nonetheless, even accounting for every viewer’s mileage various, “Coming Home in the Dark” settles into the reminiscence as a mesmerizing missed alternative at worst, a promise of future classics at greatest. It is a razor-edged calling card.
Now taking part in theaters and obtainable on demand.