27th Aug2019

Frightfest 2019: ‘Dark Light’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jessica Madsen, Opal Littleton, Ed Brody, Kristina Clifford | Written and Directed by Padraig Reynolds


Back in 2012 I saw Padraig Reynolds’ debut feature Rites of Spring at Glasgow Frightfest, then in 2015 I caught his film Worry Dolls – again at Frightfest. Unfortunately I missed last years Open 24 Hours, however I was determined to see Reynolds’ latest, Dark Light, on the big screen at Frightfest. Being a huge fan of those two aforementioned films there was no way I was passing up the chance to see yet another slice of Reynolds’ particular style of horror.

Such a shame then that Dark Light felt totally derivative of Devil’s Gate, whch played in the exact same screen as Reynolds’ film back at Frightfest in 2017…

Dark Light tells the story of Annie Knox who, following a split from her husband, the death of her mother and a nervous breakdown returns to her remote family home with her young daughter Emily. But something lurks in the walls and bowels of the house and wants her daughter in their clutches. Soon Annie must take on a thought-to-be extinct humanoid race whose need to feast on human inner light makes them a very dangerous nemesis indeed.

So we have a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a cornfield, with a protagonist who’s arrested for a crime she did not commit. And it’s eventually revealed that there are outside forces at work to attack the family unit. See? It’s essentially the same plot as Devil’s Gate – the film even LOOKS the same visually!

Told in a fractured flashback style, as we follow Annie’s interrogation at the hands of the police, Dark Light starts off feeling like a traditional haunted house film – complete with doors opening by themselves, an elevator seemingly with a mind of its own, lights in the cornfield and the usual bumps in the night. So far so cliched. But then Reynolds’ film reveals that this particular locale is actually also home to humaoid creatures, living in caves under the house – turning Dark Light from haunted house film into monster movie!

Speaking of monsters… Whilst the film itself feels derivative and cliched, at least we have a stunning monster to look at! Part Ridley Scott’s Alien, part Pumpkinhead (apt given the farmhouse’s Southern gothic-style location), with an eerie glowing “eye”, the monster of Dark Light is easily the best thing about the film – with Weston Meredith’s performance as the creature recalling the work of Doug Jones. In terms of the rest of the performances however there’s no standout role. Each and every character in this film, sadly, feels incredulous. Which unfortunately means there’s no empathy for any of the characters and thus no real, believeable, tension.

** 2/5

Dark Light screened on Sunday August 25th as part of the 2019 Arrow Video Frightfest.


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