Taking its cue from The Conjuring, Dee McLachlan’s Out of the Shadows is a beautifully shot and scored, but otherwise almost entirely redundant Australian horror flick, biting off considerably more ideas than it ever bothers to chew.
Eric Hughes (Northfield) is a police officer investigating the murder of a pregnant woman, whose child seems to have been the target for the killer, the child’s father. Cut to Hughes and his wife Kat (Rae) finding a new home – an abandoned rural maternity unit that’s too big and too cheap not to have shadows in its past. Literal shadows, it turns out; soon after they move in Kat starts seeing, and hearing, inexplicable things. Meanwhile, Linda Dee (Chappell), the less-than-willing assistant to Father Joe Phillips (Bakaitis), is being returned to his charge on probation after becoming involved with demonologists. Thus the stage is set for possession, attempted feticide, ghosts and exorcism.
The issue here is the confused narrative. Out of the Shadows is never quite sure if it’s about ghosts or demons – or even a serial killer – and never pauses for long enough to allow itself to decide. So many potential jump scares become missed opportunities as the surprise arrives too early in the shot or sequence for any tension to have built up, and almost every puzzle the narrative unlocks is solved within moments. The characters never have to do any hunting to find clues or solutions, and the entire film ultimately feels like an exercise in tell don’t show. With both mysteries and scares thrown away, it all makes for a very frustrating experience.
Even more frustrating is Kendal Rae as the pregnant Kat, a very striking looking actress who sadly switches all too readily between wooden and hysterical with apparently no register in between. The rest of the cast is just as exasperating, almost all demonstrating abilities far beyond anything the script calls for them to do, and struggling with characters so thinly written (or too ready to allow the story to jump to conclusions on their behalf) it becomes impossible for them to instil any verisimilitude into their performances.
Which is not to say Out of the Shadows is entirely a failure. Christopher Gordon’s music and Viv Scanu’s photography are gorgeous, far superior to the material they are supporting. And although it’s too hyperactive to be effective as a scary movie, the pace makes it much more watchable than it might otherwise have been. There’s promise here, but next time around Dee McLachlan needs to work out what kind of story she’s telling and stick to the brief, rather than throwing the kitchen sink at the project in the hope enough will stick to have made it worthwhile.
OUT OF THE SHADOWS (2017) / CERT: MA (AUSTRALIA) / DIRECTOR: DEE McLACHLAN / SCREENPLAY: ERIC C. NASH, RENA OWEN, DEE McLACHLAN / STARRING: KENDAL RAE, BLAKE NORTHFIELD, LISA CHAPPELL, JIM ROBISON, HELMUT BAKAITIS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (AUSTRALIA); UK RELEASE TBA