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The Dark (2018)

Dark Sky Films
DVD Released: 1/15/2019

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/17/2019

My love for movies is matched only by my love for music. And as a music-lover, I've always been fascinated by something to which most people pay little attention -- album sequencing. I would guess that the average person just assumes that the songs on an album are put in a random order, but, in most cases, a great deal of thought is put into how the tracks are laid out, with a goal of creating a dramatic experience which maintains the listener's interest. With this, I've always felt that an album's opening track has to be a powerful song which will grab the listener by the throat and lay the groundwork for what to expect from the rest of the record. Similarly, a movie must have a strong beginning which draws in the viewer and makes them want to keep watching. This has always been important, but it's even more of an imperative in today's world where we have so many choices. The Dark fails on this front, as it presents a truly lackluster beginning. Does that mean that the rest of the movie is a failure?

The Dark begins with Josef Hofer (Karl Markovics) stopping at a secluded gas station, committing a crime, and then driving to an isolated house in a neck of the woods known as Devil's Den. We assume that Josef is there to lay low, but his reprieve is cut short when he meets Mina (Nadia Alexander), the house's sole occupant. Mina doesn't take kindly to visitors, something which Josef quickly learns. This nuance aside, Mina is very interested in the human cargo in Josef's car. Once she investigates this, she embarks on a journey which will help to restore her humanity.

(Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead)

I realize that the above synopsis is very vague, but that's because The Dark takes a big turn in the first act and I didn't want to give it away for those who want to be surprised. Again, the first several minutes of the movie do not pique the viewer's curiosity. Yes, some things happen -- Josef drives, an incident occurs at the gas station -- but we have no idea who Josef is -- save for the fact that he's a wanted criminal -- or what he's doing. Once he begins to wander around a dilapidated house, one begins to wonder if The Dark even has a story. (This is the point where my wife gave up and I can see other viewers doing this as well.) But, it you've made it this far, stick around as the movie soon reveals itself to be a quirky and unique experience.

As noted above, Mina lives in the house. But, she's no normal girl. In fact, it's implied that she's a zombie. (We never learn this for sure.) In Josef's car, Mina finds Alex (Toby Nichols), a teenaged boy who can't see due to the scar tissue (?) which covers his eyes. It's clear that Mina has been alone for quite some time, as she has no social skills, but she feels a desire to help Alex. However, he doesn't want to be helped, as he continuously asks about Josef, who we assume damaged the boy's eyes. Thus begins a bizarre quest, as Mina tries to get Alex back to civilization.

The Dark is one of those movies which defies genre classification. We have what appears to be a zombie and a boy who's been disfigured, so one would want to categorize it as a horror movie, but that doesn't feel right. If anything, the movie skews more towards a drama, as these two damaged individuals are placed in a desperate situation and form an odd relationship. While we don't learn much about Alex, we do get to see Mina's backstory, which is quite tragic. Mina's history and Alex's actions explore some interesting questions concerning abuse and how people react to abuse. Mina could have easily been a one-dimensional character, but she's revealed to be quite complex and we begin to awkwardly root for her. Once the story arrives, the movie is well-paced and goes by very fast. Writer/Director Justin P. Lange based The Dark on his own short film (which really should have been included on this DVD) and kudos to him for crafting a film which I can honestly say that I haven't seen before. I'll be interested to see what he comes up with next. And I hope that movie has a better opening.

The Dark is like a PSA for why you shouldn't squat on DVD courtesy of Dark Sky Films. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. Despite the films title, this is not no overly dark movie, as the action is always visible. The colors look realistic. The image is somewhat soft at times and the depth is OK. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The surround effects work well, most notably when Josef first arrives at the house, and there is good use of stereo effects which police dogs are in the woods. The mix is nicely-balanced, and the whispering doesn't require any volume adjustment.

The only extra on The Dark DVD is a trailer for the film.

Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long