New on Netflix from Dark Sky Films!
COMING HOME IN THE DARK (2021)
Directed by James Ashcroft.
Written by James Ashcroft, Eli Kent, Owen Marshall.
Starring Daniel Gillies, Erik Thomson, Miriama McDowell, Matthias Luafutu, Billy Paratene, Frankie Paratene
Find out more about this film here!
A family run into a pair of drifters while vacationing in New Zealand. When the two drifters assault the family at gunpoint, it is revealed that the paths of these two drifters and the patriarch of the family Alan (Erik Thomson) have crossed before. Alan must not confront the sins of a past he though long behind him.
In many ways, COMING HOME IN THE DARK is a top tier quality movie. The acting across the board is good, especially Thomson as Alan who harbors a lot of guilt and repressed rage for the entire film and the way lead drifter Mandrake (played by Daniel Gillies) restrains himself and speaks politely despite doing horrifying acts is truly haunting. Miriama McDowell also delivers a strong turn as Alan’s wife Jill and while he has very few lines, the second drifter Tubs (Matthias Luafutu) makes every second on screen feel like he’s about to go on a blood soaked rampage. There are extremely tense scenes throughout where Alan and his family attempt to escape from these two drifters. The directing is tight. The action well communicated. And the script does a decent job of communicating how dire the entire situation is for this family in peril.
That said, COMING HOME IN THE DARK teeters on a premise that is morally whopper-jawed. In order to talk about it, I have to reveal some spoilers, but I feel the need to talk about it, so you’ve been warned. Mandrake and Tubs lived in a boy’s home that Alan worked at 30 years prior. Though they attempt to convince him that this is a happenstance meeting, it’s obvious the two specifically tracked Alan down to enact revenge. What did Alan do? Well, the facility Alan worked at subjected the children to torture, verbal abuse, mental abuse, physical abuse, and even sexual abuse. Did Alan do any of that? No, he did not. In the mind of these two murderers, Alan is just as guilty as the abusers because he didn’t do anything to stop it, despite the fact that this was very early in Alan’s career with him being a young, inexperienced employee. So basically, because Alan didn’t do anything, Mandrake and Tubs thinks it is justified that Alan suffer horrible torture and the complete destruction of his life and family.
I thought the big reveal was that this family man raped and abused these two drifters as children. But that is not the case at all. There’s no indication that Mandrake and Tubs had tracked down anyone else from the school. I was waiting for a revelation that Alan became the same abuser he witnessed at the school. But that never comes. Because Alan saw bad things happen and didn’t do anything, he is just as guilty as doing it. This logic floors me. No, it’s not ok to turn a blind eye to abuse, but given the situation where Alan was a newb to his job and lacking in experience, one might think there would be some kind of slack given to the guy and the focus should be on the real abusers. It’s doubtful that these two grubby drifters would have had the resources to track down the rest of the staff at their home, so basically they are focusing all of their rage on an observer.
In the mind of the “villains” of COMING HOME IN THE DARK, Alan is a monster. And it seems the filmmaker feels the same. At least, that seems to be what filmmaker James Ashcroft is saying as he even adds a scene where Alan’s wife begins looking at him differently after finding out about his lack of action. Maybe Ashcroft is trying to communicate that violence is a never ending cycle, that the drifters are lashing out against anyone, and that there are no innocent parties when abuse is concerned. I can understand some of that, but in the end, the focus of COMING HOME IN THE DARK is absolutely destroying one man and the punishment definitely doesn’t match the crime he committed.
Horror films are often morality stories where the bad are punished and the good persevere. Unfortunately, COMING HOME IN THE DARK has a much more apocryphal and nihilistic view, which is ever so trendy these days. Please don’t learn any life lessons from COMING HOME IN THE DARK. It’s brutality for brutality’s sake attempting to wear some kind of moral high ground sheep’s clothing. It’s capably made, but if you’ve got a lick of logic in you, it’s going to leave you with a rotten taste in your mouth.