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Review: Out of Darkness (2024)

Out of Darkness (2024)

Directed by: Andrew Cumming

Premise: Set in the Stone Age, a group of nomads arrive in a new land. They are hunted by a mysterious creature. 

What Works: Out of Darkness is a mix of action and horror set in the Stone Age. The film contains elements of slasher films and folk horror in a story of a loose knit group of people journeying to a foreign land, struggling to find food, and stalked by a mysterious entity. The filmmakers successfully tap into atavistic fears. The landscape and the lighting are used effectively. The film was shot in Scotland and the geography suits the story. It’s cold and barren and the setting complements the themes of survival in a brutal world. The filmmaking is similarly sparse and raw; the lighting is drab and naturalistic, setting an appropriate tone. The absence of light is especially effective in night scenes. A sequence set around a campfire in which the tribe is stalked by the unseen enemy is very tense without actually showing much at all. As a way of creating verisimilitude, the actors speak a language invented for the film. The language gives Out of Darkness a layer of reality that goes a long way to creating the illusion of events of 45,000 BCE. Out of Darkness does an adequate job setting up each character. Everyone is distinct and we understand their place in the pecking order. The group of Stone Age explorers aren’t an especially unified group and the tensions escalate as the situation becomes more desperate. Stories about early or preindustrial societies inherently imply a baseline of human behavior and Out of Darkness is a provocative depiction of early mankind. The film dramatizes the hostile assumptions that people make of others different from themselves. In that sense, Out of Darkness makes a statement about humanity and the way hostility is such a central and consistent part of the human experience.

What Doesn’t: The characters of Out of Darkness always seem a bit contemporary. That may be due to the general health and grooming of the actors. Everyone’s hair is professionally cut, their teeth are perfect, and their skin is clear. The actors look too clean and civilized for their characters’ nomadic existence. There is also something in the affect of the actors that seems modern. These characters aren’t quite primitive enough.

Bottom Line: Out of Darkness is an ambitious and mostly successful picture. The filmmakers create a vivid on-screen world that makes the Paleolithic period accessible. It’s tense and frightening and Out of Darkness is a primal story with contemporary implications.

Episode: #985 (February 18, 2024)