MOVIE REVIEW: FROM THE DARK / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: CONOR MCMAHON / SCREENPLAY: CONOR MCMAHON / STARRING: NIAMH ALGAR, STEPHEN CROMWELL, GED MURRAY, GERRY O’BRIEN / RELEASE DATE: TBC
Conor McMahon’s follow-up to his off-beat comedy-horror killer clown 2012 feature Stitches might well be the best British horror movie since Dominic Brunt’s peerless Before Dawn. In fact, there’s a little bit of Before Dawn’s DNA in From the Dark, as well as a liberal dose of 2013’s underrated In Fear. Each film shares a common theme - a young couple holidaying in a remote location isolated from civilization and facing a terrible and unfathomable threat…
But the mechanics of From the Dark are much more straightforward than either of its erstwhile conceptual cousins. The ‘teaser’ shows us a lone Irish farmer digging in a peat bog and uncovering something monstrous (and presumably hungry) which drags him below the muddy waters. Meanwhile Mark and his girlfriend Sarah are driving across Ireland and bickering good-naturedly when - inevitably - they find themselves lost in the middle of nowhere, their car stuck fast in the mud. With night starting to fall, Mark ungallantly leaves Sarah alone in the dark as he sets off to find a house so they can call for help. He quickly finds a ramshackle, semi-derelict farmhouse and its occupant; it’s our farmer friend but he’s not quite the man he was. Concerned by the bloody injury on the man’s neck, Mark heads back to the car and takes Sarah to the farmhouse where they’re immediately attacked by the semi-delirious farmer… and then something much worse which is lurking out in the darkness.
It’s a blindingly simple scenario; Mark and Sarah are trapped indoors and a gruesome vampire is outside trying to get in. Job done. But this is tense and gripping stuff, Sarah taking centre-stage after Mark is savagely attacked and almost catatonic from shock - or worse. Sarah has to use all her ingenuity - and any and every available light source - to keep out the stalking monster which is susceptible to bright light. From the Dark becomes a nerve-wracking game of cat-and-mouse as the creature outside circles the house and Sarah battles to find a way to keep herself and her boyfriend alive until the morning.
Massively, monstrously enjoyable, From the Dark is what it is and nothing more. Mark and Sarah are pretty thinly-sketched; their in-car banter amounts to not much more than Mark making it quite clear he doesn’t believe in getting married. Beyond this, we know nothing about the two save the fact that Mark’s quite happy to abandon his girlfriend and wander off into the dark on his own. There are other plot contrivances in a story which ultimate revolves around the creature breaking into the house only to be chased away again by Sarah brandishing a lamp, a torch or even a lit match. The creature itself is wisely kept largely in shadow; it’s a raging, inhuman Nosferatu-like monstrosity and it’s at its best glimpsed out in the darkness, prowling around the house or on one occasion when its clawed hand looms out of the night as Sarah waits by the stricken car.
Despite the simplicity of its one-note, linear storyline, From the Dark, unhindered by its doubtless tiny budget, goes for the jugular again and again and McMahon’s sparse script dispenses with any flab and just gets on with the business of pitting two unwitting kids against a terrible monster at dead of night. Familiar territory, admittedly, but it’s still edge-of-the-seat exciting, visceral and at times uncomfortably tense. Where Stitches had its tongue firmly in its cheek, From the Dark is determinedly no laughing matter and it’s all the better for its uncompromising, gritty bleakness and refreshing simplicity. It’s a little gem well worth keeping an eye out for.
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10