An undead teenage girl befriends a blind boy that she meets in a forest she haunts and hunts in. Both have been victims of unimaginable abuse, and each finds solace in the other. There may be a chance of light at the end of their tunnel, but it will come with a body count.
The Dark is Writer/director Justin P. Lange’s first feature length film. The film is based on a short film of the same name written and directed by Lange in 2013.
When Josef Hofer (Karl Markovics) stops at a convenience store in a remote area to ask for directions, it soon becomes clear he is most likely up to no good. As Josef drives to a remote, wooded area, it is revealed that he has a teenage boy named Alex (Toby Nichols) in the back of his car. It appears that Josef kidnapped the boy and blinded him, leaving behind large scars where his eyes once were. Josef travels through the forest until he comes to an old house. He leaves Alex restrained in the car and goes inside. Soon, he is violently attacked and killed by Mina (Nadia Alexander), a teenage girl with horrific scars covering her face. She is covered in blood and her eyes are pale. Mina is undead and she haunts the forest, mercilessly killing anyone who has the misfortune of wandering into the woods where she died. Mina finds Alex in the car and frees him, leading him into the forest. He tells her that her hands are cold, but doesn’t fully realize what she is.
Josef and Alex’s backstory remains unclear, but flashbacks reveal that Mina was brutally murdered years earlier near this location. The makeup special effects are effective and impressive throughout The Dark. At first, I thought Mina was a ghost, but events later in the film show that she is in fact undead and in a zombie-like state. Despite my initial confusion, I found the story to be intriguing and continuously interesting. It’s easy to feel compassion for Alex and Mina and become invested in the film and what ultimately happens to the two unfortunate teenagers. As Alex tries to find out if he can trust Mina as well as figure out who or what she is, they both seem to find some comfort in each other.
It turns out there are men searching the vast woods looking for Alex and unfortunately for them, a few men run into Mina. She kills them in a bloody rage and Alex asks to use one of their cellphones to call his mother, but he hangs up when she answers. Both Toby Nichols and Nadia Alexander give compelling performances as different, but yet similar tortured souls. Periodic, heartbreaking flashbacks show how Mina died and who killed her, which explains the reason for her persistent anger and why she kills everyone she encounters in the woods. Mina leads Alex to a hiding spot in the forest and attempts to tell him what happened to her and why she is trapped there. It seems like up until this point, Alex wasn’t sure if she was going to kill him, too, but now he understands that she genuinely wants to help him. Even though he can’t see her disfigured face, he realizes that they have both suffered horrible abuse and he tells her that her hands aren’t actually cold.
Where the film lacks a detailed backstory for Alex, it makes up for this with outstanding acting and skilled direction. The story is captivating as Mina tries to lead Alex to safety. She is beyond saving, but what happens to both teens and whether or not she will be able to save him, makes for a riveting horror film. As I wondered if it was even possible for some kind of happy ending, The Dark masterfully builds to an emotional final act.
The Dark – 3.5 out of 5 Skulls