Eye For Film >> Movies >> Out Of The Dark (2014) Film Review
Ever since Rebecca Hall got her big break in 2011's The Awakening, ghost stories have started to make a comeback in cinema, moving out of the horror genre and into the mainstream with bigger budgets and bigger stars. The genre has always presented challenges, with a limited number of endings possible in the narrative format most audiences want, and with only the most skillful of directors truly able to capture that sense of existential terror that the best written versions evoke Out of The Dark is not remarkable in this regard but it's a solid piece of work that tells its story well.
Sarah and Paul (Julia Stiles and Scott Speedman) are a young couple who have uprooted themselves from New York and moved to Colombia, where Sarah is to take on senior role in the paper company run by her father Jordan (Stephen Rea). Whilst she familiarises herself with the mill and the accounts, Paul, an illustrator, works from home - a sprawling mansion backing onto the jungle - and looks after their young daughter Hannah (Pixie Davies). One day, when they are out shopping, Hannah is parted from her cuddly horse (and only friend), Silver. She insists that a masked woman took him, but the adults are adults and dismiss these claims. Then she sees Silver again, and things really start to go wrong.
Seemingly aware of its narrative limitations, director Quílez invests this film with a depth of character and intense sense of place that lift it above most other entries in the genre. It's beautifully photographed, with an elegiac opening credit sequence that sets the tone for much of what will follow. As Sarah and Paul gradually learn more about their new home, they become aware not only of dark secrets but also of a tremendous weight of history that keeps them separate from it. They are also distanced by language; Paul has only a few words of Spanish and many of the local people exclusively speak a dialect of Arawak. These barriers align with class differences formed within the community over centuries. Sarah brings an outsider's sense of outrage at some of what she learns. Those who live with it day to day cannot afford such luxuries; instead their frustrations spill over into an atmosphere of suspicion and superstition, with vengeance the burden of the dead.
Well rounded characters keep us anchored in a fast moving story. Sarah is the weakest, just too close to formula, though Stiles does her best. Rea is hampered by some awful lines but has easily enough clout to redeem them. Speedman is good as a man who has found his way in the world by quietly bucking expectations and whose strength ultimately comes from recognising his limitations. Young Davies, meanwhile, presents us with a child who is also a person, with a clear personality of her own, so that when she is in peril we care about her for her own sake, not simply as an object of importance to others.
It is perhaps unfortunate that the Colombian actors are relegated to supporting roles (with Vanesa Tamayo getting the most to do as worried housekeeper Catalina), but this serves to emphasise the isolation of the white incomers and thei particular vulnerability to things of which even the locals are afraid. Ultimately the film doesn't punch as hard as it might have done but it's a rich and evocative piece that aims to trouble your sleep in more ways than one.Reviewed on: 23 Jan 2015
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