31 Days of Reviews: Dark was the Night (2015)

After a logging company starts tearing down a forest, a small town sheriff discovers strange hoof-prints that appear to have stopped and looked through his neighbors’ windows. The prints are nothing like anyone in the town has ever seen, and soon enough both animals and people start dying. Will the sheriff be able to overcome his insecurities and protect his home?

This is the first movie in this year’s 31 Days of Reviews that has been a random shot in the dark for me to watch. I just turned on Netflix, and it was in the spotlight section. I saw that Kevin Durand was in it, and I’m a fan, so I gave it a shot.

Dark was the Night, as odd as that title is, focuses on a small town as it is invaded by an ancient creature. It’s a monster movie through and through. I wasn’t expecting much from the movie in terms of originality, and there isn’t too much originality there. The atmosphere, however, in addition to Kevin Durand’s performance, really makes the movie stand out.

The majority of the movie is actually really well done, story wise. It’s one of those types of movies where they don’t actually show you the monster. They show you just enough to keep you interested and to get your imagination going. That is, until the end. The final act of the movie is a pretty stereotypical showdown between protagonist and monster, where we see the monster in full for the first time, and it felt like a damper on the movie as a whole to me.

Everything leading up to that point was pretty fantastic though. The sheriff (Kevin Durand) is a complex character, despite having a tired backstory that we’ve seen plenty of times. Durand is able to bring life to the trope. The sheriff character is a grieving parent, having lost a son six months previously. He spends the film being downtrodden and insecure about whether he can protect the town as its sheriff when he feels that he can’t even protect his own family. Durand portrays those emotions really well.

There are religious undertones to the story. For a while, the characters seem to think that the creature is some sort of demon. The church is frequently brought up throughout the movie, including a scene where the sheriff is approached about why he hasn’t been attending. The movie also brings in Shawnee lore in an attempt to explain the creature, an explanation which I feel is closer to what the movie actually portrayed. In addition, you can interpret environmental messages as well through the creature’s motives.

In terms of the technical aspects of the film, I wasn’t impressed. The special effects aren’t that great, so it probably would have benefitted the film to not have the big showdown at the end. The monster was better when we couldn’t see it. I’m not sure if it was the sound system I was using or not, but I ended up having to turn the subtitles on so I could understand the dialogue without having to continually adjust the volume. It seemed inconsistent.

My biggest technical complaint would have to be about the color grading. Most of the film has this heavy blue saturation, specifically the scenes that are outside during the day, but this bleeds over into some indoor day scenes as well. I understand why they graded the film this way. It’s all in an effort to convey that it’s cold outside. The way I see it though, they didn’t need to make the movie look blue for the viewer to know it was cold. The characters are wearing winter coats. They make a point to put jackets on before they go outside. Sometimes it snows. It’s obvious that it’s cold. I just found the blue distracting, and it took a while for me to get used to it.

There were some technical aspects that I did like. One of these was the smash cuts that were used at points throughout the film. Every time they would use a smash cut, which is cutting suddenly from two shots/scenes that are dramatically different, it felt really fitting. I think my favorite instance of this was when the huge flock of birds was flying and squawking over the church, and the shot was looking up into the chaos of it all before cutting suddenly to silent black. It definitely amplified the drama in that particular scene really well. I had to take a moment to exhale and just take it all in.

Dark was the Night is a pretty average creature feature with some good atmospheric creepiness throughout the first half. I think the creepy atmosphere, plus the barely seen creature throughout most of movie, compensate for any of the less original aspects. I’d say it’s worth a watch.

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