OUT OF THE DARK
Looking forward to an exciting new adventure, Sarah (Julia Stiles) and husband Paul (Scott Speedman) move to Colombia with their young daughter to take over the running of the family’s manufacturing plant from Sarah’s father, Jordan (Stephen Rea). Pretty soon after arriving, they begin to notice some curious goings-on as a gang of partially burned children inconveniently turn up bent on revenge.
Watching Lluís Quílez’s debut feature Out of the Dark quickly becomes a wearily familiar experience. There are so many routine and too-often-used horror tropes scattered throughout the film that it would be more interesting as a game of horror bingo than as a viewing experience. Scarred malevolent children? Check. Sinister and unnecessary dumb waiter? Check. Superstitious locals? BINGO. You get the idea.
There is a nagging feeling that this is a film made by simply connecting genre dots with the hope that the finished image is worth all the effort. Not one thing is either as imaginative or original as the far superior and similarly themed films such as The Orphanage and The Devil’s Backbone (coincidentally both Guillermo del Toro productions), both of which are unsuccessfully tapped for inspiration.
You also begin to wonder while watching what the cast thought of the finished cut. Stiles is an extremely accomplished actress but here is given so little to do as to be almost unnoticeable, until the final act when she gets to scream and run around a bit. Speedman appears to be demonstrating how not to convey emotion, and Rea might as well be walking around with a huge sign in red neon above his head that screams “Bad Guy!”
This leads on to the “big theme”, a hideously blunt eco-message hammered home in the film about the unpleasant consequences of industrialisation leading to a conspiratorially covered up disaster. This storyline becomes evident very early on in Out of the Dark and it seems the filmmakers were presented with a choice; stick with the horror film they had spent time setting up or switch into more thriller-like territory. Sadly it would appear they balked at making any decision and disappointingly for the viewer the film falls into a bland, limbo state somewhere in the middle.
Visually the film looks very stylish, with good camerawork and decent scary child makeup effects, but these minor plusses cannot instil the necessary atmosphere required to raise the film above the distinctly average. Given the number of ghostly children films that exist, entering this sub-genre was always going to be a risk and is one that hasn’t worked out. For an estimated budget of around $10 million and with a strong cast it, would have been reasonable to have expected so much more from Out of the Dark. Sadly for Quílez, he simply hasn’t delivered.
Special Features: Featurette
INFO: OUT OF THE DARK / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: LLUIS QUILEZ / SCREENPLAY: JAVIER GULLON, DAVID PASTOR, ALEX PASTOR / STARRING: JULIA STILES, SCOTT SPEEDMAN, STEPHEN REA, PIXIE DAVIES / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW