Monthly Archives: October 2015

Darkness Waits: Contemporary Creature Horror Films

In my latest binge-watching of horror films, I watched From the Dark (2014) and Dark Was the Night (2014),  Both films are takes on the creature feature, vampire and wendigo (maybe Bigfoot) respectively.  Neither film gives the viewer a name for the creatures, and the filmmakers don’t spend dialogue on explicating the monsters’ desires, strengths, and weaknesses. In both of these films, the writers decentralize the monsters themselves and highlight the human relationships that drive the protagonists.  They are inevitability tales of survival without devolving to demonstrations that humanity is in fact the most monstrous of all monsters, which has become the central plot points of most monster film/television in the contemporary era (such as in The Walking Dead and Stake Land). 

From the Dark is an Irish production set in the countryside turf bogs and is directed by Conor McMahon. What the film lacks in exegesis, it makes up for in tension.  The moments from sunset to sunrise seem endless for our cast–Mark and Sarah.  Sarah played by Niamah Algar is a wonderfully strong female character taking on the beast that is hunting them.   I was impressed with Algar’s ability to essentially carry about 75% of the film on her own, as most of the action follows her.  The darkness itself seems to be a character in this film, and the audience mainly sees the creature in silhouette and shadows, which lends to the creepy factor.  McMahon also gives several cinematic nods to the horror pictures of old, such as Nosferatu.  From the Dark is available on Netflix and Shudder as well as for purchase.

While I appreciated From the Dark‘s creepy ambiance, I absolutely loved Dark Was the Night, directed by Jack Heller and written by Tyler Hisel. This was a seriously good film.  The writing is subtle but builds a great story with solid dialogue.  The acting was outstanding.  Kevin Durand plays Sheriff Paul Shields (He is also seen in FX’s The Strain as my favorite character Fet.) Durand is fantastic as this guilt-stricken man, who is just trying to hold it all together for himself, his family, and in the long run his whole town.  Lukas Haas plays the deputy Donny Saunders and fulfills the strong conscientious second in command well.  Nick Damici (of one of my favorite films Stake Land) also shows up with some really great lines, especially in his interactions with Haas’s deputy.  This film is partly an ecological cautionary tale.  This creature tale takes an interesting premise, gives the audience excellent performances, and then takes a major mind-blowing twist. Dark Was the Night shows people pulling together to save their community and demonstrates that heroes can rise without destroying others in their attempts to save those that they love.  It was also a disturbingly creepy film.  I highly recommend it.

I was pleased to see these two films taking a bit of a different approach to creature horror than the recent trend in horror films/television.