A monster haunts the woods of Devil’s Den. Pitiless and cruel, it hunts and kills those foolhardy or desperate enough to encroach on it’s territory, stalking them, slaughtering them, eating it’s prey.

Ignoring the down-homey advice of the local gas station clerk (whom he subsequently murders) to stay far away from Devil’s Den, shifty middle-aged fugitive Josef (Karl Markovics) drives deep into the woods
and is soon lost, his car disabled.

Taking refuge in an abandoned, semi-derelict house for the night is a big mistake Josef doesn’t live long enough to regret as he’s stalked and killed by axe-wielding teenage revenant Mina (Nadia Alexander).

Horrifically scarred and cannibalistic, the undead Mina is the much-feared monster who lives in the woods, a teenage girl murdered years before who now ‘lives’ alone in her dilapidated former home, surviving undetected by killing anyone who crosses her path.

Searching Josef’s car, Mina discovers the helpless, traumatised Alex (Toby Nichols), the kidnap victim Josef abused and blinded, cowering under a blanket and, in a moment of empathy shows the boy mercy and takes him in, pitying and sheltering him as they are forced to evade police search parties.

But as the two scarred souls bond and Mina’s long-buried humanity is slowly reawakened, the outside world is closing in…

Monsters do indeed stalk the woods of Devil’s Den in writer/director Justin P. Lange’s deliciously downbeat, melancholic, fairytale The Dark but they’re the monsters of emotional and sexual abuse, of a history of neglect, of forgotten crimes and the traumas we turn a blind eye to. Both victimised, Mina and Alex find solace in shared horror, companionship in their suffering, Alex quite literally blind to Mina’s true nature as he’s unable to see her chalk-white, ruined face.

As Mina, Alexander is wonderful, at once terrifying and pitiable, and cuts a tragic figure, angrily stalking the woods with a rusty axe, the filthy, battered teddy bear she clutches, a stark reminder of the childhood stolen from her and while the script may be a little too on the nose, the film’s best moments are often it’s quietest, Mina sitting alone, gazing into the Gothic night, lit only by the flickering flame of a lighter. Evolving before our eyes, she’s a devil we want to have sympathy for.

Affecting and poignant, The Dark suggests that the worst monsters live not in the woods but among us, that the worst horrors are those we visit upon the vulnerable and that sometimes those horrors come back to haunt us.

Arrow Video Frightfest Review: The Dark
4.0Overall Score
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