A convincing character portrait in this emotionally gripping creature feature
Director Jack Heller crafts an interesting creature feature with Dark Was The Night, aimed at adults instead of the teen market. Solid acting from its lead actors are the main attraction in this polished monster thriller. The studied indie horror film is more concerned about character development than scares or gory effects. Kevin Durand (mostly known at the moment as Fet from The Strain) puts on a capable performance in one of his first starring roles as a protagonist. It’s a careful drama that plays with genre elements instead of being defined by them.
The sleepy town of Maiden Woods comes under attack from something unknown when mysterious animal tracks matching no known creature appear one night. No one is safe in the small town with a listed population of 243 inhabitants. Dark Was the Night is etched in its rural milieu, playing an important role in the narrative. Sheriff Paul Shields is dealing with the recent loss of his child and a separation from his estranged wife when his small town becomes ground zero for a series of mysterious animal attacks. What some believe is a prank quickly turns deadly when hunters encounter something in the nearby woods. His new deputy Donny (Lukas Haas) is an outsider from New York City with issues of his own, mistrusted as a newcomer by the town. They will have to overcome their personal issues if the sheriff has any hope of stopping what is coming to town.
Kevin Durand handles the role with an unexpected ease…
Kevin Durand handles the role with an unexpected ease…
Dark Was the Night is an oddball when you consider it strictly as a genre film. Much of the film’s central focus is Paul’s coping with his own emotional issues as he investigates the mystery. That marks it a character piece almost more than horror. His immense suffering after a personal tragedy deeply affects his relationships with every person he meets. Kevin Durand handles the role with an unexpected ease for an actor that has largely been type-cast much of his career. This type of emotional depth and complexity is rarely seen in horror protagonists. The script’s refusal to pander to teen audiences is refreshing in the direct-to-video horror market.
Dark Was The Night holds out a bit too long from directly showing any kind of terrifying creature. While I realize filmmakers are rarely involved with marketing their own films, horror fans expecting a grisly slaughter-fest should likely look elsewhere. Its horror is constructed more along the lines of implied terror, which makes the ultimate pay-off a tad disappointing. Budgetary limitations likely played a part in that narrative choice. It’s not a deal-breaker but does make the final minutes strangely off-kilter with the rest of the film.
A convincing air of mystery and fear makes Dark Was the Night an enjoyable creature feature aimed at adults. The no-frills creature feature likely won’t grab younger audiences but should find a home with adult horror fans.
Dark Was The Night is a RED Epic production. That entails a certain level of visual quality from the digital camera. Image Entertainment brings the sharp-looking film to Blu-ray in a perfect digital transfer. The 98-minute main feature is presented in a carefully-shot 2.40:1 aspect ratio with mannered cinematography. Encoded in fine AVC video averaging 20 Mbps, the movie devoutly adheres to a modern digital color grading commonly found in thrillers. The largely colorless presentation brings a distinctively dark tone with its teal shades.
The video itself is nearly razor-sharp with strong definition. The unfiltered digital transfer contains impressive detail outside of its darkest shots at night. It is not eye candy per se. The limited color palette lacks brighter colors. Black levels are quite good outside of one or two scenes. A hint of noise appears in them which stand out only because the rest of the film looks so clean and perfect.
Having seen any number of indie horror productions on Blu-ray, Dark Was The Night ranks highly among them in terms of picture quality. It lacks the impact of brighter fare but makes up for it with an impressive consistency. This is sophisticated digital cinematography presented in transparent quality by Image Entertainment’s excellent Blu-ray. The pervasively grim color grading is intentional.
The audio is a respectable 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack with crunchy sound design. A fair number of surround cues make their presence palpable, especially when the creature is nearby. Some may say the movie relies too much on its sound mix to provide auditory frights instead of giving us stronger visuals. The dialogue is quietly nestled in balance with the more atmospheric score. Dynamics are average, occasionally coming alive when needed.
Optional English SDH subtitles appear in a white font, remaining inside the movie’s scope framing at all times.
Image Entertainment has made Dark Was the Night a Best Buy exclusive on Blu-ray until November’s wider release. It arrives at Best Buy on September 1st with a nice slipcover that includes light embossing. These bonus features aren’t life changing but add something a little extra after seeing the film.
Behind the Scenes: A Trip To Maiden Woods (07:34 in HD) – This featurette delves into cast interviews, on-set footage, test footage, and even VFX. Director Jack Heller makes an appearance, explaining how he categorizes the film. A solid look behind the scenes that probably could have been made longer.
Q&A With The Cast of Dark Was The Night (08:38 in upscaled HD) – This is footage taken from a Screamfest event of the main cast, including Kevin Durand, talking about the movie.
The Houses October Built Trailer (02:18 in HD) – Precedes the main menu.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.