Monday, October 2, 2017

31 Days of Spooky Movies: From the Dark

Day #30

From the Dark

A young couple’s car breaks down while taking a trip in the rural Irish countryside. But things take a real turn for the worse when they find themselves being hunted by a murderous and photophobic creature of the night.

Fright Factor:
2.5 / 5 Feral Nosferatus

Gore Factor:
3 / 5  Flesh Wounds

Should you watch it?

You ever have a meal that’s far from flashy, but just really satisfying? Like a simple grilled cheese that just really hit the spot? That’s this movie in a nutshell for me. It’s not a super fancy film, but for me it was a truly satisfying bit of horror.

When it comes to monster movies I’m usually not the biggest fan of vampires. They’re so often depicted as the narcissistic trust-fund, private school elitists of the monster community and that type of character brings me no joy. So I am very happy to report that this isn’t that kind of vampire movie!

In fact I’m hesitant to even use the term “vampire;” the creature here was something...I dunno know, older? Like if a nosferatu was abandoned by its parents in the woods as a babe and went feral. You know what? Let’s use the old-school term and call it a vampyr. That seems oddly appropriate. There were no weakness to crosses or holy water here, just good old fashioned light and a stake to the heart.

And it’s this film’s back-to-basics approach that really made it work for me. In fact it’s a pretty great example of the 3 main elements that make for a satisfying horror movie.

#1: Fun Characters

It’s really hard to create a properly scary tension if nobody cares if any of the characters live or die. Sure you can always use  a jump-scare or throw in some gore (as many films will), but techniques like that make for a poor meal.

And luckily for us the characters here are pretty great. I mean, to be fair, there are really only 4 characters in the entire movie and only the 2 main characters have any lines, but still! Niamh Algar and Stephen Cromwell have a great chemistry together and their back-and-forths were really relatable. And what’s more, they were fully-formed people and not just simple stereotypes! (that's always a big get in a Horror movie)

#2: Solid Foundation

A lot of movies seem to confuse a good premise with a solid foundation. Take Snakes on a Plane for example. It’s got a fantastic hook, but really, when it really comes down to it there’s not a whole lot you can do with that. A good horror movie needs to have a solid foundation to work with otherwise anything it tries to create will inevitably collapse.

It can take the form of a clever killer, or an intriguing survival mechanic, or whatever, but it needs to have that foundation element that gives the filmmakers room to create suspense, to move the action forward, and to just generally keep everyone interested. In A Nightmare on Elm St it was that Freddy Krueger can go into people’s dreams. In The Silence of the Lambs it was that the only person who could locate a mass murderer was an even more dangerous and intelligent mass murderer.

See what I mean?

And that was a big part of what made this movie so much more enjoyable than I was originally expecting. They didn’t just settle for “Oh a monster is attacking them! And they would rather it didn’t and would prefer to live if its not too much bother.” They upped the stakes by getting rather clever with the vampyr’s weakness to light.

In most stories vampires are weak to sunlight, but the vampyr here is just generally photophobic and is hurt by any form of light stronger than the moon. The movie uses this to great effect and there’s this great tension to the action that revolves around the protagonists’ ability to find and use sources of light to their advantage.

And it’s really fun! I had all sorts of “AHH! I didn’t even think about using that one!” moments while watching the movie.

#3: Good Execution

Nothing kills a horror movie faster than bad execution (although bad enough acting can get really close). And while perhaps not the best around, the technical side of the film was quite good. In particular I liked how they used the background of their shots. They did a good job of inserting movement or information in the background that generally worked well to heighten the tension and the general creepiness of a scene.

There are a few things I could critique (for example there were some day-for-night shots that weren’t the best), but none of them were terrible, and certainly never bad enough to ruin a scene.

So there you have it. The movie isn’t without its flaws, but it’s a really solid piece of horror. It has a monster with a unique flair, an interesting and fun to think about survival mechanic, and a pair of likeable protagonists with amazing Irish accents.

Sure you might not rave about the plating and fancy ingredients, but all in all it’s a pretty darn satisfying meal.

“People can get their hair cut without it leading to marriage, ya mentalhead.”

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