24th Jul2023

Fantasia 2023: ‘Lovely, Dark, and Deep’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Georgina Campbell, Maria de Sá, Nick Blood, Wai Ching Ho, Soren Hellerup, Ana Sofia Martins, Edgar Morais | Written and Directed by Teresa Sutherland

Coming from the writer of recent slow-burn horror The Wind, the slightly oddly-titled Lovely, Dark and Deep, tells the story of a park ranger looking for answers from a childhood tragedy while she walks alone through the wilderness.

I guess it should be no surprise that this movie could also be called a slow burner but don’t go thinking that this means the first half or more of the film is boring or that nothing of note happens. Because Lovely, Dark and Deep grabs its viewers right from the start. But, there’s no doubt that the pace picks up towards the climax of the film and the movie leans more into horror the longer it goes on.

There are plenty of movies about people getting lost in the woods but this one doesn’t get drawn into many of the tired horror movie tropes that most of those seem to. It definitely feels like the filmmakers are trying something different here. Of course, it is not completely original to go down the route of the lead character dealing with past trauma and that leading to the horror. This is something that is very popular in the genre at the moment but once again, Lovely, Dark and Deep is trying to do this with some originality.

I initially liked the basic story for the first half of the movie, about the lead character, Lennon, played by Georgina Campbell (Bird Box: Barcelona, Barbarian), getting her new job as a park ranger and camping out for the first few nights. She clearly has an unexplained reason for wanting the job and the horror moments slowly start creeping in. The woodland looks fantastic as a backdrop in the day and then the director shows a great use of light in the night scenes. Lennon’s torch was used as a perfect tool to create tension and then the odd jump scare. But the film gets stranger and more entertaining as it goes on. The film starts creating some fantastic horror imagery and you start getting a little unsure about what is real and what’s fantasy. All of the fantastical parts of the movie look really cool and help the viewer get completely lost in this world. We go from creepy woodland/wilderness to a haunted house and dream/nightmare visuals and it never feels forced or stupid.

Campbell is good in the lead and she has plenty of the movie acting alone. When alongside somebody else, it is often Nick Blood (Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D., Andor) as Jackson. There’s a simplicity to the relationship of the characters that is refreshing and the two actors play the roles well.

Although the main story is kept simple, Lovely, Dark and Deep enough new ideas that it’s much more enjoyable and thought-provoking than your average horror. And it manages to create an interesting and original ending that I didn’t see coming. Director/writer Teresa Sutherland clearly knows how to write an intriguing slow-burn horror. And with this (her first time in the director’s chair) and The Wind, she has written two very different but very entertaining genre films. I look forward to seeing what she does next.

*** 3/5

Lovely, Dark, and Deep had its world premiere on July 23rd, as part of this year’s Fantasia Film Festival. There’s also a second showing of the film on July 25th.


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