Out of Darkness is an effective Stone Age survivalist horror that thrives on the incredibly isolated though alluring locale of the Scottish Highlands and a splendid soundscape that strikes fear and paranoia. While the story is simplistic, Andrew Cumming (in his impressive feature directorial debut) makes this an intense and immersive exploration, creating an amazing atmosphere where the dark isn’t nearly as frightening as what is hiding in it.
It’s 45,000 years ago and we’re introduced to a group of six starving primitives who have been to hell and back to get to where they are now. This promised land is where there should be a plethora of food and plentiful caves for shelter. But none of that has been discovered and this territory is deemed cursed by the elder of the tribe, Odal (Arno Lüning), leaving them all exceedingly full of doubt and despair. Though Adem (Chuku Modu), their fearless leader, will never admit such a thing. His relentlessness and brutality has brought them too far, so failure in providing what he’s promised isn’t an option.
Adem has one son named Heron (Luna Mwezi) and another on the way with Ave (Iola Evans). Geirr (Kit Young) is the second-in-command but nothing like Adem, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And at the very bottom of the totem pole is Beyah (Safia Oakley-Green), a stray they picked up along the way. It’s clear she’s the most expendable out of the whole pack, yet she’s dead set on showing her usefulness. Her and everyone else must face the “demon” that stalks them when Heron is yanked into the darkness. Whether it’s running, hunting, hiding, or sacrificing – no one can escape the barbarity and bloodshed that awaits.
An entirely new language called “Tola” was developed for Out of Darkness, and how it’s spoken on-screen feels very authentic. Also adding to our gripping viewing experience is the haunting score from Adam Janota Bzowski and the outstanding performance by Oakley-Green that’s not only physical but psychological. As Beyah, she finds womanhood during when desperate times call for desperate measures.
Cumming and screenwriter Ruth Greenberg hit on something that’s rather unexpected though consequential in the film’s finale. They firmly indicate the fear of a monster as well as the true monstrosities of human nature when we as people feel angry or threatened or scared. The most terrifying part of Out of Darkness is how similar our past looks to our present. We fear trying to understand each other way more than the actual unknown.
Brandon Vick is a member of The Music City Film Critics’ Association and the Southeastern Film Critics Association, the resident film critic of the SoBros Network, and the star of The Vick’s Flicks Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @SirBrandonV and be sure to search #VicksFlicks for all of his latest movie reviews.
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