Coming Soon: Out of Darkness (2024) - Reviewed

Images courtesy of Bleeker Street

The origins of mankind have always been an intriguing topic.  Dozens of books have explored it, yet sadly, there are only a handful of films that have tackled the subject matter, even less so that have done it well.  Andrew Cumming's absolutely brutal feature film debut not only delves into the primal history of humanity, it does it as a horror film.  Combining shocking violence, impassioned performances, and stunning cinematography, Out of Darkness is one of the most enthralling films of the year, while also doubling as one of the best entries into the genre thus far.

A small group of primitive hunters enter a new, harsh land, trying to find a place to survive. As they traverse a cruel wilderness, they realize that not only are they not alone, but they are being hunted by something in the darkness. Ruth Greenberg's screenplay creates its own Tola Language, blending various vernaculars to give the hunter's speech credibility. The cast does well with that they are given, but this is at its core a mean mood piece, where violence, not words, is king. Safia Oakley-Green does well as Beyah, the protagonist, a "stray" that the men picked up along the way.  Comparisons to Prey are unavoidable, however, Darkness is a slow burn thriller, perhaps more in the vein of Bone Tomahawk

Ben Fordesman's gorgeous cinematography is the centerpiece.  This is a beautifully shot film that almost comes off like an anti Malick.  There are voice overs atop awe inducing scenery, but the light is never given purchase against the darkness, and it is this malicious intent that makes the film so memorable. One of the most striking visuals is the way light is juxtaposed within the finale.  One part of the sequence is in blue light, simulating the uncertainty while the other is filmed via firelight, allowing the two contrasting colors to present the discovery and Beyah's crucible in an organic format, all set atop stunning violence.  The result is a harrowing film about survival and the notions of tribe and family. 

The ending is certain to be divisive if not outright panned, however, in the context of 77 minutes that come before it, it does make sense, evoking thoughts of Refn's Valhalla Rising.  Where Refn was concerned with the purgatory of discovery, Cumming views the origins of humanity as being born from the ingrained need to survive.  The divine is forsaken in favor of bone crunching, primality. 

Coming to theaters this Friday, Out of Darkness is a tense survival horror experience with some interesting ideas dappled throughout.  Fast, brutal, and unforgiving, Cumming's debut shows a wealth of talent while also showcasing a carefully conceived and lovingly constructed nightmare about not only who we are as a species, but who we have always been.  

--Kyle Jonathan