‘Coming Home in the Dark’ Review

The magnificence of nature hits you like a freight train in the early scenes of James Ashcroft’s tense and sinewy first film, Home in the dark. The majestic rural landscape of Greater Wellington, on the southernmost tip of New Zealand’s northern island, instantly changes from a place of enveloping tranquility to a place of terrifying, powerless isolation when the encounter of A family with a pair of murderous drifters makes a traumatic discovery in the past. What begins as a nerve-wracking portrait of incidental violence turns into a dark reflection on the enduring echoes of childhood abuse in state institutions.

Adapted by actors and directors Ashcroft and Eli Kent from the short story of leading New Zealand fiction writer Owen Marshall, the horror film teases its ambiguity when it comes to evil. Are the family victims of random, nihilistic evil or have they been targeted because of the father’s past sins? And witnessing cruelty but doing nothing to stop it makes one sinful? Those questions resonate throughout the gentle and meaningful act of setting contracts from the vast outdoors to the claustrophobic dread of a car’s interior on a long night of fierce hell.

Key point

Cancel that wild escape.

Ashcroft and DP Matt Henley foretell the threat lurking in two brief opening shots that reveal relatively little. The first is a beautiful sunrise with a lone figure sitting crouched on a hill overlooking the horizon. The second was an abandoned Mercedes on the side of the road, the passenger door open creaking on its hinges in the breeze.

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A teacher in Wellington goes by the nickname Hoaggie (Erik Thomson), his wife Jill (Miriama McDowell) and her two bickering teenage sons Maika and Jordan (Billy and Frankie Paratene), all They all seemed pleased with what one of the boys said with a hint of irritation like “Road trip experience.” Even being pulled over for speeding won’t put your mood down for long. They hiked in the mountains and then chose a spot by a beautiful river for a picnic, posing for family photos to capture the moment. But that happy portrait was shattered in an instant when two strangers accidentally entered the scene.

Casually removing the rifle under his jacket, Mandrake (Daniel Gillies, a TV veteran of the Diary of a vampire, Hold on to hope and Original) says it all, while his sly sidekick Tubs (Matthias Luafutu), a Maori native like Jill and her boys, says nothing as he forages for them himself. Hoaggie and Jill do their best to calm Maika and Jordan by staying calm, handing over their car keys and cash without hesitation. But any doubts as to whether Mandrake intended to be violent would disappear in a moment of astonishing brutality.

As the criminals socialize the whole family into their car, a shocked Hoaggie asks, “Where are you taking us?” “Going home,” Mandrake replied, quietly enjoying the terror of his prey while Tubs blankly stared out the window at the darkening sky in silence.

Early on, stunned terror and impending fear of worse are spiked by John Gibson’s special score, which uses the jagged string sound of a bowed piano and bass for an insidious effect. . At first, Ashcroft seemed focused on creating a disturbing genre exercise with a debt to countless spine-chilling predecessors from Wolf Creek arrive Fun game. But the script cleverly weaves into the possibility that there might be an agenda behind the violence as Mandrake begins to question Hoaggie about his teaching experience.

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“Business as usual. Next day. Next car. It was just a happy coincidence,” Mandrake explained as their past connection came to light and Hoaggie became suspicious. a sort of twisted revenge scheme. closed after a national scandal, which also eroded Jill’s trust in her husband, giving Mandrake a chance to balance riding.The glimpse in Tubs’ eyes made it clear that it was history. Dark history touched his life.

Working with powerful actors capable of crossing the line between fear and moral degradation, brutality and near-repressible rage, Ashcroft and editor Annie Collins have maxed out. transforms the psychological obsessions lurking between the glands, doing a remarkable job of maintaining extreme tension. Charged episodes like a gas station stop, a tire explosion, an escape attempt, and a desperate plea for a group of cheerful teenagers get their pulses racing, even when the worst The worst of the bloodshed tends to be shown from a distance, reflective of Mandrake’s ice-shrouded split. Considering that much of the action is voice-controlled and confined to the car, the pace is relentless.

The lines of power between the white Mandrake and the Indigenous Tubs subtly introduce elements of racial disparities while refusing to explore them directly. The same goes for any possible connection points between Tubs and Jill in terms of their common ethnicity. That element evokes a bit of a sense of missed opportunity that might have provided extra dimension to the script. But as an exploration of the ways in which childhood trauma can manifest into unchecked evil in adults, to the detriment of those who have waived responsibility, Home in the dark It’s an intriguingly nasty ride and a sure-fire debut from a promising new director.

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Venue: Sundance Film Festival (Midnight)
Production company: Homecoming Productions
Actors: Daniel Gillies, Erik Thomson, Miriama McDowell, Matthias Luafutu, Billy Paratene, Frankie Paratene, Bailey Cowan

Directed by: James Ashcroft
Written by: Eli Kent, James Ashcroft, based on a short story by Owen Marshall
Producers: Mike Minogue, Catherine Fitzgerald, Desray Armstrong
Executive Producer: James Ashcroft
Director of Photography: Matt Henley
Production Designers: Kate Logan, Phillip Gibson
Costume designer: Gabrielle Stevenson
Music: John Gibson
Editor: Annie Collins
Sound Designer: John McKay
Sales: CAA, MPI Media Group
92 minutes

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