The Dark is an incredibly affecting film about the long-lasting trauma of abuse and its young main cast members deserve high praise for taking on such brave roles in such an impressive way.
Mina is a young girl who rises from the grave after her untimely death. She roams the forest to feed her blood lust but when she finds Alex, a young boy who is suffering just as badly as her, things begin to change.
I cannot give Nadia Alexander high enough praise for her work within the film. Mina is a taxing role in both physical and emotional terms, but Alexander plays it note-perfect. As we spend the majority of the screen time with her, this is so important, as is her chemistry with Toby Nichols as Alex. Nichols is particularly impressive, given that the damage to his eyes means that he cannot use them, yet still manages to pull off a suitably subtle performance. Some would use the lack of eyes to emote to turn up the volume on the rest of the performance and it shows a real confidence to not do that.
Alexander manages to use a carefully controlled energy, as Mina is prone to rushes of energy, combined with long moments of contemplation. She is also able to match the brutality with a softness, showing real range and giving the film real emotional weight. I look forward to seeing far more of her work.
Director/writer Justin P Lange (and his co-director Klemens Hufnagel) are in no rush with The Dark and the whole thing is built on mood. Despite the shocking subject matter, it is handled with care and given the appropriate time to let the horror of the situation sink in. In more clumsy hands, it could be exploitative, but the line is clearly drawn and the more unpleasant elements are restrained. One scene will shock, but the groundwork for what happens has already been laid earlier in the film without being overt.
The makeup and design of Mina is excellent and make the moments in flashback where we see her as a normal girl all the more upsetting. Similarly, times within the film when we receive flashes of what Mina could be are impactful. The contrast between Mina, who has no one looking for her, coupled with Alex’s desperate mother’s pleas for him to be brought back further the duo’s grim situation. However, there is a care to not dwell on horrific details, handing over instead to the rather more uplifting chance for them to bond.
The overall sound of the film deserves praise too, with a perfectly haunting song chosen to reflect Mina’s troubles. The way in which Mina uses sound to protect herself and Alex is also well constructed. Similarly, the early moments in which Mina is presented as a monster utilises sound and more traditional ways of representing monsters.
I would hugely recommend that people who enjoy films with a slower pace and focus more on the interplay between the two hugely talented leads check out this film. The Dark is a film which deserves to find its way into a number of yearly top 10 lists and shows just how capable the horror genre is of turning out thoughtful, considered films which deal with taboo subjects in ultimately cathartic ways.
The Dark plays at Frightfest 2018 on August 27th and will receive a home-entertainment release in October 2018 courtesy of Frightfest Presents.