M.L. Miller here! Welcome horror fans to my Annual countdown of the Best of the Best in Horror! Running every day through October, this list will culminate with the best horror film of the year announced on October 31st. Some of these films can be found in theaters—others have unfortunately only seen the light of day On Demand, DVD, BluRay, or digital download. I’ve tried to indicate in the reviews how you can watch and enjoy these films yourselves. I’ll also provide a “Worth Noting” secondary film suggestion in a separate post. These are films that stood out or just missed being on the list by a skosh—a little extra for those who can’t get enough horror.
How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st 2018 and September 30, 2019 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number, 31. This countdown is not for the elitists or festival goers, so if the film hasn’t been released to the masses, it won’t be on the list. Also anything released this October will most likely be on next year’s list—so sorry, no films like DOCTOR SLEEP or ZOMBIELAND 2 just yet.
I hope you’ll join me daily and don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
#16 THE DARK
Sure the story is familiar; a troubled boy meets a vampire girl and the two form a bond to take on those that want to hurt them. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN/LET ME IN, right? Well, even though the bare bones premise sounds similar, this is a tension filled and bonafide scary that flips expectations and delivers a powerful emotional heft in between blood spattered beats. Released in late October of last year, here’s my review of THE DARK! Available DVD/Blu-ray, On Demand, and digital download from Dark Sky Films!
THE DARK (2018)
Directed by Justin P. Lange
Written by Justin P. Lange
Starring Nadia Alexander, Toby Nichols, Karl Markovics, Sarah Murphy-Dyson, Dan Beirne, Margarete Tiesel, Dylan Trowbridge, Scott Beaudin, Chris Farquhar, John Blackwood, Kelly Boegel, Nneka Elliott, Timothy Modney, Geoffrey Pounsett
While there are similarities between the subject of this review and LET ME IN/LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, THE DARK goes in a vastly different direction, sets it in a different locale, and distinguishes itself through many twists and turns throughout the narrative.
A young kidnapped boy named Alex (Toby Nichols) is rescued by a young vampire girl named Mina (Nadia Alexander) after his abductor flees the police into a dark forest. Blinded by his tormentor, the boy relies on the vampire to survive and in return gives the vampire a chance to find her lost humanity.
THE DARK is another film focusing on young children forced to grow up through traumatic events. Much like LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, the film pairs a troubled boy with a vampire girl. But THE DARK offers up many twists and turns that distinguishes the two films. This is a film that flips expectations over and over again, placing its characters in gray shaded areas, giving them complex backstories, and thus making the film much more unpredictable than it seems at first. THE DARK is a gritty and down to earth film that is much less polished than even the original LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. From beginning to end, the expectations are flipped and flopped, making it all feel refreshing.
THE DARK is also an extremely bloody film, never holding back on gore because this is a film starring children. Mina gulps down blood in a sloppy and animal-like manner. She doesn’t look clean and beautiful either. Her face is scarred and wounded, never seeming to heal from her initial attack. Alex’s eyes have been burned closed, so he himself is scarred horribly. Still there’s a beauty in the fact that these two traumatized kids are drawn together.
Both Nadia Alexander and Toby Nichols deliver fantastic performances as the lead kids. Alexander acts well beyond her age and displays a savagery I wouldn’t think possible for an actress so young. Nichols job is a bit tougher as he must be both vulnerable and likable, and for the most part, he succeeds. Alexander, though, shines brightest of the two. She’s definitely a star in the making given this powerful performance.
You might think you know all about THE DARK at first glance but take a chance with this one. It’s an unconventionally structured and played film. I think the final moments of the film are unfortunately the weakest and the film sort of sputters out by the end rather than blows you away. Still there’s more to like than dislike here. Having once faced a glut of vamp films in the early 00’s, it’s refreshing to see someone telling an original take on the subgenre of horror and succeeding in such a stellar fashion. THE DARK is no kiddie horror film. It’s a gritty take on a familiar tale that’ll leave you successfully chilled, surprisingly touched, and thoroughly entertained.
THE COUNTDOWN SO FAR…
#16 – THE DARK
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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