In my honest opinion, there are not enough good creature features in the horror genre. I think this is most likely the case because it is an extremely difficult feat to pull off. I mean, there are plenty of indie filmmakers out there that have tried I;m sure, but it isn’t easy to create a monster that has never been seen before, while also making it look convincing and downright frightening. Thankfully, it does happen occasionally and I am glad to say that we now have a new one to add to our ever-growing collections with Jack Heller’s Dark Was the Night.
The quiet town of Maiden Woods is home to 243 people. Things get a little less quiet, when the local wildlife goes missing and a trail of mysterious footprints appear, spanning a stretch of about three miles. The town’s sheriff, Paul Shields (Kevin Durand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Devil’s Knot, while battling his own demons, must find a way to protect the people of Maiden Woods from the creature that is stalking in the night.
It is very hard for me to get excited about monster movies these days because I know they are so hit or miss. I had a good feeling about this one, but kept postponing the viewing of it for fear of another letdown. Let me tell you guys, Dark Was the Night is not a letdown in the least! The film is aesthetically crisp and vibrant, the story is familiar yet original, and the acting is stellar.
I have seen Kevin Durand’s face throughout numerous movies over the years, but never paid him too much mind. After viewing this film, however, that will all change. I was blown away by his performance from the very start to the final second of Dark Was the Night. I felt every ounce of pain that he was experiencing, having to deal with his tragic past, making the character of Paul Shields that much more appealing. He was the perfect mix of someone to feel compassion for, but someone to also root for because he is the perfect hero to save the town of Maiden Woods.
Durand is not the only actor to pay attention to here, though. In fact, the entire cast does an outstanding job throughout the entire film. I really enjoyed everyone’s performance and genuinely think that it helped make this film such a winner. From Nick Damici (Stakeland, Late Phases) to Lukas Haas (Inception), the performances are some of the best I’ve seen in quite some time.
While I’ve already mentioned the fact that I think the movie looks beautiful, I do want to make note of one thing; A little while back, I read an article (which can be found here) about the use, or overuse, of the ‘orange and teal’ color palette in films. I accepted the content of the article, even though I had never really picked up on trend myself. With Dark Was the Night, however, this technique is way to obvious to ignore. I mean, there are some scenes that are literally only blue or only orange, leaving all other colors completely absent from the shot. While this most certainly isn’t a deal breaker when deciding whether I enjoy a film or not, especially one of this caliber, it does kind of put a damper on things.
I don’t believe I’ve ever seen any other work by director Jack Heller, but it is clear to see that the man is a very talented filmmaker. Along with writer, Tyler Hisel, Heller was able to create characters that were extremely relatable and that you can actually care about, which is not done very often in the horror genre anymore. In addition to the in-depth and effective character development, we weren’t force-fed a creature that came off as inadequate or just plain dumb looking. The use of subtle peeks or shadows help to build the suspense throughout the film’s 98 minute runtime, keeping the viewer wanting more. The best part is that when that more finally comes, the creature actually does look pretty damn impressive. Based off the of the Native American lore of the wendiga (wendigo, windigo, and a ton of other spellings/iterations), the monster looks like nothing I’ve ever witnessed before — It is menacing and truly a perfect fit for this film.
Aside from the minor coloring issue I explained above, I really have nothing bad to say about Jack Heller’s film. I fear, like has happened too many times before, that the horror community will pass right by this one. It is a shame because I really enjoyed this film and think that it deserves a larger audience than it will most likely receive. I will do my best to spread the word of Dark Was the Night and so should you! Be sure to pick up a copy on DVD or Blu-ray (exclusive to Best Buy) from RLJ Entertainment today!
I give this one 4.5 footprints out of 5.