Fresh faced young things going camping is never a good idea in the horror genre. Bad things happen to fresh faced young things who go camping. They could, for example, find themselves at the mercy of a machete wielding mentalist, or suffer the very grimmest of deaths at the wrong end of a curling iron, or, unfortunately, find themselves stuck in a mostly utterly inept film like Dark Cove.
Dark Cove, a Canadian horror/thriller written, directed, edited and starring Rob Willey, follows a group of post college friends who escape their mundane jobs for a weekend of camping, drinking and drugging on a secluded beach on the coast of Vancouver Island. At first, all sorts of fun and japery is had. They meet a couple of Australian surfers and their British hanger on. They party, play an acoustic guitar around a camp fire and have clunkingly awkward pop culture laden dialogue with each other. But then things take a dark turn when the group finds themselves with a dead body to contend with, as well as someone in the midst of a murderous nervous breakdown.
Eventually. Eventually the above happens. Eventually the above happens nearly 50 minutes into the 1 hour and 24 minute run time. Slow burns in films are a very effective way to build tension and introduce characters that the viewers care about and don’t want to die a violent fiery death within the first few minutes of their appearance on screen. The slow burn effect is not utilised at all in Dark Cove. The characters run the gauntlet from mere husks in search of a personality (basically the female characters) to the vastly over the top, irritating, sex mad Joey (Rob Abbate), whose main offering to proceedings was an uncanny ability to make me want to punch him in the spleen. It’s hard to write naturalistic, interesting dialogue, and obviously Rob Willey was attempting for the light hearted, jokey, pop culture approach that Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino can use to such great effect in their films. This is a skill that is nowhere as easy as one might think. Joshing on about being high, blow job jokes and throwing in references to Oasis and Alanis Morissette doesn’t really cut it, as well as being cringey and outdated – would Oasis really be that popular with the Canadian youth of 2016? The film did nothing to make us care about these characters, and it seemed at times their only function was to advance the plot using the most exposition laced lines committed to screen since Monica Keena uttered the immortal sentence ‘Freddy’s afraid of fire. Jason’s afraid of water. How can we use that against them?’ in Freddy Vs Jason. Due to the lack of action for the majority of the film, being stuck with these characters really was a chore, and by the time anything actually happened, ham-fistedly at that, I was too bored to really care.
The cinematography is pretty much the one jewel the film has in its lacklustre crown. It is set in a gorgeous location, and does manage to evoke a sense of the isolated, off the beaten trackness that other similar, vastly superior, films conjure up. Maybe the most annoying thing about the film is the fact that there is the germ of a good idea buried in all the nonsense, substandard acting and bizarre soundtrack choices (Seriously, the music used doesn’t fit the mood of the film at all, with that and the juvenile dialogue, at times I felt like I was watching a teen film from the late 1990’s. One of the really bad ones, which starred Melissa Joan Hart). It could have been a nice change from the now hackneyed ‘youngsters go camping and are stalked and dispatched by a mask wearing psycho’ plot that so many films have used in an attempt to replicate the success of the Friday the 13th series. In more experienced hands, this could have been a taunt little thriller, but sadly, the lack of likeable characters, the awkward and unnatural script and severe pacing issues have stymied any impact the film might have had.