A couple on a trip through the Irish countryside find themselves hunted by a creature who only attacks at night.
Conor McMahon’s last film was Stitches; a home invasion/horror comedy that saw a group of teens disposed of in numerous imaginative ways by a wisecracking clown zombie played by British comedian, Ross Noble. If you haven’t already seen it, get on board as it’s a whole lot of fun. In his latest film, From the Dark, McMahon returns to a similar theme of people being trapped within the confines of a house whilst a horror awaits outside, but keeps all attempts at humor firmly locked away in the attic.
Niamh Alga (The Light of Day) and Stephen Cromwell (Golgotha) play Sarah and Mark; a couple taking a road trip across Ireland. When their car breaks down at night, the couple seek shelter in a nearby farmhouse containing one very unwell farmer. Their attempts at being a Good Samaritan and helping the man soon go awry when he takes a violent dislike to them before crashing through a closed window. It’s the not greatest way to reciprocate someone that’s for sure, but things are about to get a lot worse. A vampiric creature is prowling the parameter of the farmhouse looking to finish off its meal.
There isn’t very much else to say about From the Dark in terms of narrative. This is as stripped back a movie as they come. With our heroes trapped within the confines of a farmhouse in the country, my thoughts immediately turned to 2008’s The Cottage where Andy Serkis and Reece Shearsmith found themselves at the pointy end of a demon farmer’s rage. Like that film, From the Dark is economic in its setting, keeping the couple restricted to the rooms within the house for a large part of the film. It feels, quite rightly, rather stifling.
Adding to the claustrophobic atmosphere is the creature’s aversion to light of any kind. With the creature trying to keep itself in the dark, McMahon chooses a lighting style that is at once extremely discomforting and smothering. So as the couple fight their way through to morning, they find their strongest weapons are whatever emits a light source. From candles to desktop lamps, these small items provide the film with the little illumination it has. And before you start shouting, ‘Well, I’d use my iPhone torch!’ think about how much good that’s going to do you when the battery won’t last before sunrise.
Like Jeepers Creepers before it, From the Dark somewhat recaptures the creature features from long ago. We’re never given a true account for what it is that stalk our hapless duo, save for the occasional glimpse of a Nosferateu-esque silhouette. We only know it’s from the peat farms of Ireland and it’s extremely hungry. McMahon cashes in on this fear of the unknown by limiting the creatures appearance as much as possible. Whilst it could also be argued that the option to keep the creature hidden is primarily down to a low budget, there’s no denying it works to an excellent effect.
However, it’s not all smooth sailing and From the Dark does unfortunately suffer from a flabby middle. Like someone suffering from claustrophobia, the film’s plot begs to be out in the open. In hindsight, it’s not surprising that the film feels refreshed once we break out form the confines of the farmhouse, and into a game of cat and mouse across the Irish countryside. Once liberated, the odds tip in the creature’s favor as it stalks through its own stomping ground without fear of being blinded by light. If From the Dark had gotten to this point sooner, I probably would have come out of the film feeling a bit more satisfied.
However, this merely a minor quibble in what should be applauded as being a frightful throwback to days when the Universal Monsters were something to be feared rather than aped. From the Dark is a ghost train of a film. It’s not deep, it won’t change your life, but buckle yourself in anyway and enjoy the ride.