M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Five of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2014 and going through September 30, 2015. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! 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!
Released on April 14, 2015. Available On Demand, digital download, and Blu-ray/DVD! Also streaming on Amazon Prime!
FROM THE DARK (2014)
Directed by Conor McMahon
Written by Conor McMahon
Starring Niamh Algar, Stephen Cromwell, Gerry O’Brien, Ged Murray as the Creature!
While the poster is rather lackluster and the title is about as unoriginal as they come, everything else about FROM THE DARK is absolutely awesome!
The film opens on a dank and wet day on the Irish countryside. A weary farmer is slowly digging a hole in the ground one small square of mud at a time during an opening credits sequence that seems to be as arduous a job as any I’ve seen. I think he is making some kind of brick from the mud, but am not sure, but I found his patience fascinating. As night falls, the farmer unearths something peculiar; a pointed stake-like object, and soon after he finds a tomb of sorts and unleashes a long buried monster. Meanwhile, down the road, a young couple by the names of Mark and Sarah (Niamh Algar & Stephen Cromwell) make their way across the countryside on a road trip. Of course, the car breaks down or there wouldn’t be a movie and as Mark heads up the road to investigate the farmhouse up ahead, Sarah is left at the car to guard their things and flag down any motorist who might pass. Little do they know, in the shadows around them lurks something evil. Sarah and Mark find themselves trapped in a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a bloodthirsty monster circling them in the shadows.
While this is most definitely a vampire movie, it never goes so far as to use the V-word during its entire runtime. Filmmaker Conor McMahon (who did last year’s fantastic killer clown flick STITCHES) sticks pretty close to vampire lore without being in your face about it. Yes, it seems this creature is susceptible to a stake through the heart, as the opening sequence shows when the stake is removed from the tomb and yes, the creature walks in a manner just like Max Schreck did in his portrayal of Count Orlock in NOSFERATU, but that’s where the vamp lore ends. The film really hinges on the concept that this creature is sensitive to light, which veers a bit from the vamp’s sensitivity to sunlight, but still it makes for a pretty compelling way to pit two frightened humans against a mythic monster. Because of this simple, yet effective concept, FROM THE DARK turned out to be an amazing, simple, and surprisingly refreshing little vampire flick.
Part of the reason why this film works is because the two protagonists (Niamh Algar & Stephen Cromwell) are so likable. Both are somewhat snarky but not annoyingly so and you generally believe the two are in love with one another despite Mark’s reluctance to commit to Sarah and get married. Because I found these two so appealing, when they are tossed into the dangerous path of the monster, it makes the tension all the more real. Embracing that tension and sending it crawling down our spines, director McMahon amps the fear factor here to 11, doing some fantastic things with obscured things in the background, making those dark corners and out of focus areas deadly and forcing you to scan every inch of the screen for the creature who is stalking the couple.
There are some bonehead moves made by the couple along the way and there will be times in FROM THE DARK where you will be screaming at the screen, “Don’t do that, you idiot!” as the couple chooses to venture out into the dark instead of doing the smart thing and just waiting in the light until morning, but you make that scream because McMahon has done his job right in giving you a likable couple to root for and a monster that is definitely worth shuddering at. FROM THE DARK is not a giant epic film by a long shot, but it makes a lot of smart decisions in terms of setting up some fantastically tense scenes and sparking some of our basest fears of things that slither around in the dark just out of view.
THE 2014-2015 COUNTDOWN!
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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