From The Dark Review [Fantastic Fest 2014]

Matt Donato

Reviewed by:
On September 29, 2014
Last modified:February 27, 2015


From The Dark Review [Fantastic Fest 2014]


While From The Dark is most certainly an “economical” creature feature, this backcountry survival story is a generic horror watch to the core. Creator Conor McMahon is the mad genius behind one of my favorite recent horror films, the pun-tastic slasher romp Stitches, but his abandonment of jovial comedy does nothing for this straight-laced vacation-gone-wrong scenario. With the purest of intentions, but a noticeably restricting production value, McMahon is backed into a corner while bringing to life an idea that’s otherwise fresh and welcoming. Utilizing two actors, one monster and a ton of night-vision, From The Dark is able to muster little more than a shiver, pacing through the same dangerous scenarios that so many films have captured in a more invigorating light.

Sarah (Niamh Algar) and Mark (Stephen Cromwell) are traveling through a rural Irish area when suddenly their car becomes stuck. Stranded without any visible traces of civilization, the couple have no choice but to traverse the darkness until stumbling upon the closest residence. After some walking, their goal is achieved, discovering a rustic house with a wounded man inside. Trying to help, the man eventually ends up attacking Sarah and Mark in a psychotic fit, and it’s not long after that another figure begins attacking as well. Realizing that something or someone wants them dead, Sarah and Mark fight back against the looming creature, but they soon realize the odds are against them wherever darkness exists.

The rules of From The Dark are basic enough in that we’re introduced to a monster whose only weakness is light, so he must do all his attacking at night. If you shine a light in the direction of the creature, it backs away into the darkness until your flame or battery dies out. Then there’s the transformation phase akin to the well-known vampire model, where you turn into one of the creature’s minions if your blood is infected via a bite or scratch from any other infected beast. Finally, if any creatures get caught in the sun, they turn into ash and crumble upon the slightest touch. Yup, McMahon creates what is essentially an Irish vampire minus an insatiable thirst for Guinness, but ingenuity peters out right after the monster’s creation.

As Sarah and Mark fight back against a monster sporting such a tremendous handicap, the same types of scares are used time and time again. Darkness can only hide McMahon’s monster for so long, as the beast spends the next hour or so seeing how far it can run into the survivor’s safehouse before having exposed light scares itself back outside. This formula makes for a few tense moments, but the repetition of attacks and retreats doesn’t prove to be a sustainable method when faced with the long-term goal of creating monstrous moments of vicious horror. From The Dark feels more like an elongated episode of Goosebumps that would have benefited from a shorter run time and less creature-vision chase sequences.

While Mark and Sarah start out as equally important characters, Sarah becomes a survivor girl after Mark is injured during an escape, so it’s up to the Celtic woman to summon her inner warrior and fight back against the beast. Algar is an able survivor, albeit a clumsy one who constantly finds ways to injure herself, but she’s a badass female lead who we believe can fight back against the trollish-looking monster creeping amidst the darkness. Cromwell essentially becomes dead weight, as Sarah goes metaphorical by literally carrying Mark scene to scene, which is what Algar herself has to do by carrying From The Dark all on her lonesome. Her escape becomes a search for illumination, with something as small as a lit match providing momentary safety, but McMahon’s concept proves to be more enthralling than it’s delivery.

It’s a shame, because Conor McMahon is a fresh talent with a bright future in horror, but From The Dark is a pretty trivial movie by creature feature standards. The monster feels like a repurposed vampire in desperate need of some sunglasses, making a creepier voyeur than home invader. There are as many scares as you’d expect coming from a creature whose biggest obstacle is night-lights, which is an unfortunate fate that’s presented entirely too early for recommended viewing. It’s an accessible monster movie for mainstream audiences, which translates into redundant normalcy for hardcore horror fans. Unfortunately, you’re probably better left in the dark on this one, no matter how dangerous the shadows are perceived to be.