February 18, 2016

REVIEW: FROM THE DARK (2014)


From the Dark is a 2014 horror film directed by Conor McMahon and starring Niamh Algar, Stephen Cromwell, Ged Murray, and Gerry O’Brien. The film deals with a couple, Sarah and Mark (played by Algar and Cromwell), who are traveling through the Irish countryside when their car gets stuck in the mud in the waning daylight and they become stranded. Meanwhile, a local farmer (presumably digging for clay – the film is not entirely clear on this, and I, being no farmer, am simply not sure) unearths a body from the muck with a large wooden stake sticking out of its chest. Overcome by curiosity, the man removes the stake, which of course revives the creature and it attacks him. If it isn’t painfully obvious within the first two seconds of footage that this creature is a vampire, I pity you.

Let me start by saying that while, yes, this film is a refreshingly simple take on a frustratingly old, even cliché, scenario, it still has its faults, namely in resorting to tired, overused tropes, most notably starting with the fact that Mark leaves Sarah alone in the car on a deserted country road to find help. Of course, neither of them are getting any signal on their cell phone (does that even really happen in this day and age in a country as densely populated as Ireland?) so they are left with little choice. We are treated to a couple of tense moments as we get the sense that something is stalking Sarah outside the car while Mark ends up at a tiny house in the middle of nowhere (presumably the farmer’s, although again, we don’t know for sure). Upon entering the house, Mark discovers the farmer, bleeding profusely from a ghastly wound on his neck and seemingly delirious. After a few moments of being completely ineffectual, Mark decides to go back to find Sarah and bring her to the house so they can help the farmer. How they wish to do this with their car still stuck in the mud, I have no idea.

Upon returning to the house, the farmer has seemingly disappeared. While searching the house, Mark and Sarah are attacked by the farmer, who has been transformed into a creature not unlike the one he unearthed. While attempting to defend themselves, Mark is grievously injured, and they discover that light causes the creature to retreat. Here the real problems with the film begin as Mark literally becomes dead weight for the rest of the film as Sarah has to help him move around while trying to avoid not only the transformed farmer, but also the unearthed vampire from the beginning of the film, who has also arrived on the scene. I won’t spoil the rest, but suffice to say that the viewer experience of this film is mediocre at best with occasional decent jump scares that quickly tire out long before the credits roll.

I won’t lie; there are real, genuine moments of goodness in this film. But the ideas, good as they are, simply don’t translate well to film. The entire affair is simply too predictable and bland, though what is achieved on film is impressive, given the budget they had to work with. The film’s one redeeming quality is that, though things quickly devolve after the first act, Mark and Sarah are blessedly set up as an honest-to-goodness couple with chemistry you feel you can root for. Their interaction in the film before they are thrown into the horror mix feels genuine, and despite a few bad ideas primarily on Mark’s part, it’s easy to hope they get out of this alive.

Bottom line: if you’re hard up for a vampire film that doesn’t involve a pathetic love triangle among star-crossed teens, this will do in a pinch. It has just enough redeeming factors to make it a watchable flick, but you’ll still come away feeling almost as empty as you did before you pressed the Play button.