Dark Was the Night (2014): Kevin Durand & Lukas Haas Kill It

Kevin Durand Lukas Haas

Written by Tyler Hisel and directed by Jack Heller Dark Was the Night is a slow moody piece that gives stars Kevin Durand and Lukas Haas star turns. It also boasts a pretty impressive cast of secondary characters with Nick Damici (Stake Land, Cold in July) and Bianca Kajlich (Rules of Engagement, Undateable) to name but too very capable actors who round out the cast.  Set in the dwindling forests of small town America, the film feels a little like a real-life version of  Ferngully: The Last Rainforest but with razor sharp teeth and a voracious appetite.

While there are no fairies or small magical creatures, this film’s “Hexxus” is just as natural as the element in the ecological message a’la animated feature (with Christian Slater and Robin Williams), but lacks Tim Curry’s voice to make it seem more identifiable. In Heller’s film, this entity is big, mostly unseen, and fast. The creature has  thrice-spilt hooves  and razor sharp claws and later we also learn it has razor sharp teeth as well.

Set against around a small rural township, the film begins with the creature being discovered at a logging camp. It claims its first victims and then moves south. The local sheriff 20 miles away first learns of the migrating monster from a local horse breeder. Paul Shields (Durand) and his deputy Donny Saunders (Haas) investigate somewhat half-heartedly  the disappearance of one horse as they believe the breeder left a gate open and his horse escaped. The owner believes the horse was stolen.  Later we learn it was most likely eaten.

Shields’ mind is not on day-to-day policing of his town and its people. A recent tragedy, his sone drowns while under his care, and he and his wife, and other son, are struggling to deal with the loss. With his whole world in tatters, the sheriff is almost sleepwalking through his duties.

Durand, as Shields, looks as though he will burst into painful and heartfelt tears of grief at any moment. The man evokes so much inner torment that one wonders how he is able to operate on any level. Donny, the erstwhile former New Yorker who transferred to the country keeps an eye  on his boss while trying to get over being shot back in the Big Apple.

Canadian actor Durand is usual associated with action roles, although he has been knocking it out of the park with the FX series The Strain  as exterminator Vasiliy Fet.  His performance in this slow atmospheric horror thriller, proves that this actor’s chops are massive enough to leave the action genre behind if he so choses.

Co-star Haas, who has been working in the industry since 1983, is no stranger to the horror genre and his solid, and oh so real, performance helps to sell this film’s events without question.

Heller films his external day-time scenes with hues of blue saturating every frame.  This makes the film’s setting appear even colder and all the more disturbing as the unfolding events slowly build up to an unsettling climax.  The night time sequences are pitch black, leaving the viewer as disoriented as the main characters must be in the scene.

The pacing of the film is slow, moving forward at the speed of an arthritic crawl, but the sense of foreboding is overpowering and helps to keep suspense building despite the almost crippling lack of adrenaline.  This slowness does enhance the more intense moments.

When the hunters encounter the creature in the woods or when the police find the remains of the “monster’s” feeding frenzies, it shocks and impresses.  This film is not about jump scares and serial killers with large knives or alien races attempting mass genocide with buckets of gore.

It is a campfire tale, with a touch of  cautionary parable mixed in for good measure.  As Sheriff Shields points out in the film, this creature, disturbed by the loggers, is attempting to find another hiding place. With no place left to run, it feels threatened and is trying to claim a new territory. (Ferngully: The Last Rainforest but without the mysticism.)

The thing is also hungry.

Dark Was the Night,  proves that Kevin Durand can carry a film, with a little help from Lukas Haas, but this assistance was not really necessary. Durand convinces with a performance that feels tortured and full of pathos. Heller allows his star to channel his inner grief and it enhances the film beautifully.

The film is on US Netflix at the moment and is a solid 4 out of 5 star movie.  A whole star is lost because of the creature itself. When we finally see it, the thing feels more CGI than a real “once thought extinct” boogeyman.  Regardless of the “letdown” at the end this is great entertainment and worth watching.

The Strain Occultation: Total Eclipse of New York (Recap and Review) *May Contain Spoilers*

The Strain Occultation: Total Eclipse of New York (Recap and Review)
*May Contain Spoilers*

After last week’s episode, where Abraham remembered his original “introduction” to the master at the Nazi death camps, this week in The Strain Occultation: New York undergoes a total eclipse of the sun while the Master’s plan of spreading the parasite gains momentum. Before the sun disappears behind the moon, the FBI go to Eph’s house and it’s apparent that his old CDC boss is in league with Thomas Eichorst and wants Goodweather out of the way.

‘The Strain’ Episode Three: Missing Bodies and Damage Control

‘The Strain’ Episode Three: Missing Bodies and Damage Control

Episode three of The Strain begins with Thomas Eichorst, The Master’s “mouthpiece” putting his face on; literally, it then goes on to discuss the missing bodies from the morgue and the CDC attempting damage control on the entire situation. This opening is quite impressive. The vampire, noseless, earless, and hairless puts on fake replacements and makeup to give himself a more human appearance and against a backdrop of classical music, the scene is almost mesmerizing.

The Echo (2008): Grudge-like Terror

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I’ve just fallen in love. Not with someone, but something; the film The Echo. Amazingly it is a re-make (not, if you’ve read many of my posts or seen my YouTube channel something I am too fond of) of a Filipino film titled Sigaw (second side note – which I am currently desperately searching for) which translates as Scream or Shout.

Directed by Yam Laranas and starring Jesse Bradford, Amelia WarnerKevin Durand , and Carlos Leon The Echo lives up to it’s billing on the cover. It boast’s that the film has been made by the producers of The Grudge and The Ring. The influence of both films is very evident in this spine tingling (yes, I know cliche time but damn it fits) and scary movie.

Ex-con Bobby (Bradford) has been released from prison, he was in for involuntary man-slaughter, and is on parole. He moves into his dead mother’s apartment and gets a job working for Hector Rodriguez (Leon) as a mechanic. He hunts down his ex-girlfriend Alyssa (Warner) and they attempt to restart their earlier romance.

Meanwhile, Bobby’s neighbour, a cop (Durand) is noisy and appears to be beating his wife and daughter. And there are some strange things going on in his dead mother’s flat, not to mention some really odd noises.

This is a cracking film very much in the land of The Grudge and The Ring. It was well paced and the reveal/twist was genuinely surprising and satisfying.

"From the producers who brought you..."
“From the producers who brought you…”

The performances were spot on and I was pleased to see Bradford again as the last thing I’ve seen him in was the 2002 film Swimfan.  His wounded countenance and perplexed disposition went a long way to convincing me that his character was someone who’d always toed the line until the manslaughter incident.

Warner was brilliant as his ex-girlfriend who initially does not want to start over with Bobby and then changes her mind.

I also loved Durand in this film. The first thing I ever saw him in was the 2007 film Wildhogs and he was incredibly funny as the half-witted biker thug. In this film, he is evil, tragic, and scary.

Durand. Did I also mention creepy?
Durand. Did I also mention creepy?

This film delivered the scares in spades and almost creeped me out so much that I wanted to leave the lights on when I went to bed. Not to mention that every little (or not so little) noise had me jumping and jerking like I had an electric lead attached to my body.

SPOILER TERRITORY IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM, DO NOT READ THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH!

The ending of the film was also brilliant. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive (along with the police) we know that Bobby is screwed. Despite the fact that he has managed to save (we hope) his girlfriend, he’s broken his parole so it’s back into the “Big House” for him. Somewhat of a downer after the brilliant twist just before in the film.

OKAY, SPOILER ALERT OVER, READ ON…

loved this film and because of that, I’m giving it a full 5 star rating. It took the lessons learned from The  Grudge and The Ring and it did not blatantly copy either film. There was no “jerky” movements from anyone and no, “A-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-h,” noises either.

So, have you seen this film? What did you think about it? How about the original Filipino film? And on that note, if anyone has any idea where to find this film (the original) please, for the love of God, let me know?

The Echo 2004 aka Sigaw, anyone know of a subtitled copy, anyone??
The Echo 2004 aka Sigaw, anyone know of a subtitled copy, anyone??