There’s something darkly disturbing lurking in those moody Pacific North West woodlands once again, as a desperate father searches for his four year old son. Little Adam has gone missing during the night on a family hunting trip (what sort of loon takes off into the wild with a four year old and a gun?). Fortunately Adam is soon reunited with his dad and his older brother Clint, but something strange and traumatic has obviously happened to the lad. The experience unsurprisingly puts Adam off hunting and leads to a family estrangement in director Tim J Brown’s creature in the wilderness shocker Devil in the Dark (2017).
Fast-forward fifteen years: Dad is dead and the now grown-up Adam (Robin Dunne) is back in town trying to patch things up with Clint (Dan Payne). And what could be better than going on a hunting trip with his big brother, up to the Plateau, a place so remote that there is no mobile signal? Adam isn’t put off when his bar room buddies tell him about Dan Grant, who ventured up to the Plateau never to be seen again, or having that recurring nightmare about his barely remembered childhood trauma. The following morning he is up bright, early and hungover ready to join his brother.
The brothers bond over the trek, up to the point where they lose phone signal and are truly alone. This is when things weird out, as they recognise the antler strewn landscape of the Plateau as the place where tiny Adam went missing all those years ago. Spooked by odd screaming noises Adam falls down a precipice dislocating his arm. If that isn’t trouble enough they soon realise that something is stalking them – and it isn’t a wolf or a bear.
There’s something reminiscent of Stephen King in the way Devil in the Dark alternates between a childhood abduction/possession flick and a creature feature, but the film really didn’t hack it for me. Despite the somewhat predictable big reveal at the film’s conclusion I thought the initial grounding of the legend was too thin and the monster’s reason for being lacked any real substance. Bizarrely, despite the movie’s relatively short runtime of 82 minutes, the on-screen story telling really dragged before getting to the midway point where the meat of the action kicked in. I believe this is because too much time is given over to establishing the nature rather than the reason for Adam and Clint’s estrangement.
On the plus side the lair of the creatures in Devil in the Dark is nicely imagined, oddly reminding me of the thorn forest from Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (1959), but in a much creepier way. The cinematography of the British Columbian woodland is nicely atmospheric, especially during the nocturnal camp fire scenes, and there are a couple of well executed jump scares that are topped off with bang on the button sound design.
Had Devil in the Dark been conceived and written by Stephen King it would probably have garnered a full five star review; sadly Carey Dickson’s screenplay falls a bit short of the master’s magic touch. However this is a competently made film that has a couple of decent scares.
Devil in the Dark is available on VOD nationwide in the US from Momentum Pictures on Tuesday 7th March.