Coming Home In The Dark

A nerve-shredding ordeal focused on revenge and inaction that lingers in the mind.

Synopsis: A school teacher is forced to confront a brutal act from his past when a pair of ruthless drifters takes him and his family on a nightmare road-trip.

Coming Home In The Dark is a curious film in that it feels blisteringly brutal, yet is not at all gratuitous or prolonged in terms of the violence. The majority of its horror comes in the form of monologues and stories that tumble out, with the focus being on the difficulty of confronting those horrific realities. Silence is used to devastating effect throughout the runtime and the entire film feels ‘unsafe’ due to its restraint alongside the sustained dread and the sense that the characters are doomed whether out in the open or in confined spaces.

Erik Thomson plays Hoaggie, a school teacher taking a holiday with his wife Jill (Miriama McDowell) and their children. Soon their holiday is disrupted by Mandrake (Daniel Gillies) and Tubs (Matthias Luafutu) who appear to know a dark secret from Hoaggie’s past that has implications for everyone.

Gillies is excellent as the hugely intimidating Mandrake – initially chillingly affable but seemingly never far from enacting violence without much of a change to his demeanour. It is Luafutu who becomes the highlight, however, given that his character Tubs is the quieter of the two, meaning he has to convey much more in facial expressions and physical performance. This growing and changing Tubs is one of the film’s most memorable aspects and Luafutu handles this evolution incredibly sensitively. There isn’t a weak link in the cast, however, all reliably delivering on the film’s most impactful moments of dialogue, but more importantly in the tense silences that punctuate so much of their car journey.

That this can tip into the ‘cat and mouse chase’ thriller at times, while remaining slow and steady in others may make it difficult for some to engage. This is not an action-packed thrill ride but a genuinely uncomfortable study of simmering rage and the ways that alters someone’s world outlook. At one stage a character remarks that abuse and inaction are not the same but ‘live on the same street, a powerful reminder of the way that so much abuse has been ignored or covered up. The strength lies in the complexity of the characters presented and the eerily plausible way that many events play out.

The film is careful to leave just enough to the imagination, allowing for harrowing stories to slip out, but with time the details are fuzzy. This allows for the moral ambiguity of all characters to hang in the air for much of the runtime – the horror of all their circumstances given time to sink in for the viewer. Those pauses entrap the viewer in the car with the characters, both allowing some time to take a breath from the intensity but also time for processing and introspection.

An almost overwhelmingly tense experience that sensitively and effectively probes the long-term effects of trauma and tackles the oft-romanticised concept of revenge.

4.5 out of 5 stars

4.5 out of 5 stars

Coming Home In The Dark is available in the USA on VOD and select theatres on October 1st. A UK release date has yet to be announced.

Author: ScaredSheepless

Film and television fan, with a particular love for horror.

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