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 Season Finale (Recap and Review)

The Strain Season Finale (Recap and Review)

The Strain season one finale has Eph still uneasily wearing the label of strigoi hunter with Nora, Setrakian, Velders and Fet. At the start of the episode Palmer pays a visit, along with his head of security Fitzwilliam, to Abraham’s shop to collect the old man’s weapons. While there, Eldritch discovers the heart of Setrakian’s wife. He also finds out that he has not been turned and he is not pleased. He gets angry and Eichorst tells him that he will eventually serve at The Master’s side for eternity eventually but for now the strain of infection will not be passed on and that Palmer should think of it as another test.

The Strain: The Third Rail (Recap and Review)

The Strain: The Third Rail (Recap and Review)

In The Strain: The Third Rail Setrakian and his little team of strigoi hunters are starting to slowly gel as a cohesive unit. Neither Vasiliy Fet or Eph Goodweather will be the best of friends or the president of the other’s fanclub but they are learning to work together. At the start of the episode, Fet is testing the UVC bulbs and the experiment goes up in flames. Eph recommends making the bulbs fluctuate like a strobe and when Vasiliy makes a joke in agreement the doctor gets angry. The exterminator explains that he likes the the strobe idea which calms Goodweather down.

The Strain: Loved Ones (Recap and Review)

The Strain: Loved Ones (Recap and Review)

In The Strain: Loved Ones, Eph is tracking down his estranged wife and Zach helps at the beginning of the episode by hunting for his mother’s iPhone. Despite the WiFi signal being weak and slow, the boy finds out that Kelly Goodweather’s smartphone is moving. Things are strained between Nora and Eph since his proclamation of love for his wife last week when the two of them were caught having sex by Kelly’s best friend.

The Strain: The Disappeared (Recap and Review)

The Strain: The Disappeared (Recap and Review)

After last week’s episode of The Strain, Creatures of the Night, where the infected Jim Kent was shot by the newest member of the group, no one is clamoring to join the Vassily Fet fan club in The Disappeared. Eph and his crew race home to check on his ex-wife Kelly and son Zach and just before the van arrives the boy has discovered that his mother’s boyfriend has turned into a monster. His father arrives in enough time to save Zach from infection and he dispatches the now turned Matt.