Synopsis: An evil is unleashed in a small town when a logging company sets up shop in the neighboring woods.
Release Date: July 24, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, Horror
Kevin Durand is one of those actors whose face is more widely recognized than his name. He’s had supporting roles on both the big and small screens, with appearances in Real Steel and The Butterfly Effect as well as in “Lost” and “The Strain” – and that’s only scratching the surface of his résumé. Now, in Dark Was the Night, the side-man takes the lead.
Dark Was the Night stars Durand as Sheriff Paul Shields, a lawman in a quiet logging town called Maiden Woods. Although, lately, things in the town haven’t been so quiet; citizens are reporting livestock missing, and the streets have been littered with large, hoof-like footprints. The townspeople are horrified, but Paul assures them that he and his deputy, Donny Saunders (Lukas Haas from Inception), have the situation under control. The big break in the case comes from the town bartender, Earl (Nick Damici from Late Phases), when he tells the story of the Shawnee Indian spirits that haunt the white men who don’t respect the land. With no other theories, Paul does some research of his own, and determines that the town is dealing with the Windiga, a legendary Native American monster that has been summoned and set free by the loggers. Paul and Donny have to find a way to stop the monster and protect the people.
The screenplay for Dark Was the Night was written by Tyler Hisel (Safari), who loosely based the story on an actual event; the residents of a town in England really did wake up to cloven hoof tracks marring their streets in the mid-1800s. Hisel’s story brilliantly examines how modern-day people would react to such a phenomenon. Of course, the stakes are raised by the fact that there’s actually a monster responsible, but truth be told, the movie has a very small body count; the only casualties are a few animals and a handful of unlikeable side characters. The real draw to Dark Was the Night is the human interest.
At first glance, Dark Was the Night gives the impression that it’s a simple creature feature. And it is. But it’s also much more than that. Director Jack Heller (Enter Nowhere) injects a lot of sympathy and emotion into the characters, so the film doesn’t actually end up being completely about the monster – it’s about the people who are dealing with it. In many ways, the monster is a secondary threat; both Paul and Donny are busy enough wrestling with their own demons, Paul being tied to his ex-wife (played by Bianca Kajlich from “Undateable” and “Rules of Engagement”) by forces both tangible and symbolic, and Donny trying to get away from a previous life on the rough streets of New York City. The creature is just an added bonus.
There’s a little something for everyone in Dark Was the Night. There’s suspense, intrigue, emotion, philosophy – and a monster. Whatever you’re into, chances are that you’ll find it in Dark Was the Night.
A monster movie is, of course, not complete without a monster, and the monster in Dark Was the Night is pretty cool. While it does share characteristics with the typical sasquatch/yeti type of forest monsters, for the most part the beast is its own creation, combining different influences and aspects of folklore and mythology into a completely original monster. With the exception of some full-body shots that appear to be CG animated (or at least enhanced), the creature effects are all practical. The budgetary limitations of a practical creature suit are turned into an asset, with Heller taking a page right out of the Jaws playbook and setting up the monster’s inevitable appearance by showing it in bits and pieces, close-ups of walking feet or slashing claws either illuminated by flashes of light or moving quickly enough to not fully register in the viewer’s mind. It’s an ingenious camera/editing trick that keeps the monster mysterious while not requiring a full suit. Of course, there is a guy in a full suit when the monster is fully revealed; the creature is played by fight choreographer Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum. But the small slices are more effective than the whole pie. Anyway, whether it’s shown as a whole or in pieces, the creature in Dark Was the Night does not disappoint.
For a creature feature, Dark Was the Night doesn’t have much bite when it comes to being scary. That’s okay, though, because it’s really more of a dramatic thriller than a horror movie. It’s full of palpable suspense and teeth-gnashing tension, but it doesn’t really get any scarier than that. Even the creature itself is a slow reveal, and the anticipation is scarier than the actual beast; the movie focuses more on the myth, the aftermath of the attacks, and the fear that the Windiga inspires in the townspeople, and those small bites of paranoia are more horrifying than anything that the monster actually does onscreen. For example, in one scene (shown in the trailer), Paul’s son thinks he sees something in Paul’s backyard. Paul investigates and finds nothing, but the next day, the footprints are all over the yard. The discovery that something was there and watching them is more chilling than the actual presence of the beast. Dark Was the Night is full of little moments like that; it’s got more of an underlying feeling of dread instead of any realizations of sheer terror.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Jack Heller
- Producer(s): Joey CareyJack HellerDylan K. NarangStefan NowickiDallas Sonnier
- Screenwriter(s): Tyler Hisel
- Cast: Kevin Durand (Paul Shields)Lukas Haas (Donny Saunders)Nick Damici (Earl) Steve Agee (Jesse)Bianca Kajlich (Susan Shields)Heath Freeman (Jim)
- Editor(s): Paul Covington
- Cinematographer: Ryan Samul
- Production Designer(s): Adam Giambattista
- Costume Designer: Haley Lieberman
- Casting Director(s): James Calleri
- Music Score: Darren Morze
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA