13th Sep2021

Frightfest 2021: ‘Coming Home In The Dark’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Daniel Gillies, Matthias Luafatu, Miriama McDowell, Erik Thomson, Billy Paratene, Frankie Paratene, Alan Palmer | Written by James Ashcroft, Eli Kent | Directed by James Ashcroft

From Black Sheep to Deathgasm to Housebound, New Zealand has a pretty good relationship with horror, even if it leans towards the comedy side sometimes (this is no bad thing of course!) but Coming Home In The Dark is anything but a comedy movie.

It doesn’t take long to realise this either as the opening scenes show two guys come across a family in the beautiful but scarcely populated New Zealand wilderness. These two guys aren’t very nice people and are soon taking the family on a terrifying road trip.

Coming Home In The Dark is brutally violent but you’ll never numb to this violence. It isn’t plastered across every minute of the movie, there’s meaning, thought and reasoning behind each and every hit. And all of these moments hit hard and you will feel the pain of the characters surrounding it. Shot in a way that means the director maybe doesn’t show the full impact of everything but the viewer still sees and hears enough that there’s no less of an impact. This film will make you hurt in more ways than one.

Daniel Gillies plays Mandrake, one of the two men taking the family hostage, the leader of the duo. Often speaking quietly and slowly, here sends fear into the heart of his victims sometimes with just a look. His attacks are swift and brutal. Wasting no time in hurting who he strikes down. Gillies is frighteningly good in the role. Alongside him is the almost silent Tubs played by Matthias Luafatu. Despite not speaking, Luafatu manages to be just as scary with his sheer presence and the fact that he often hurts people with his bare hands. But by the end of the movie we do see that there is a bit more to the character than first seems and the inexperienced actor shows that he will surely go on to bigger things.

But these two characters would be nothing without Miriama McDowell (as Jill) and Erik Thomson (as Hoaggie) fighting against them. They play the roles of desperate parents willing to do anything at all to survive what they are going through. I liked that all these things felt kind of grounded and realistic despite how crazy it all is.

One of my favourite things about Coming Home In The Dark is how it blurs the lines on who is hero and villain. Who is good and who is bad? Things are very much not black and white. On the face of things, they should be. Surely the murderous duo are evil and surely we shouldn’t feel any sympathy for them? But you kind of do and not in anyway that feels shoehorned into the story. You wont want to feel sorry for them and they are clearly still horrible people. We also discover that the people they are attacking might not be as perfect as they first seem. It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen that show this divide and confuse the audience into who is right or wrong.

There’s also a fantastic, dread-filled score as well. It’s often really harsh sounding and as good as some of the scenes in the movie are, they wouldn’t be as good without this music. Often hurting your ears but it’s still something I’d love to listen to again.

The ending of the movie might throw up a few more questions but gives plenty of answers too. Coming Home In The Dark is one of my favourites of this year’s Frightfest. Almost unrelentingly bleak but so brilliantly put together that you can’t keep your eyes off of it. Right up tehre with the best and most brutal revenge movies.

**** 4/5

Coming Home In The Dark screened as part of this years Arrow Video Frightfest.

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