Directed by Tim J. Brown
Judging by the poster art, Devil in the Dark looks like it could be a deep woods tale about the legend of the Wendigo or even a distant cousin to Donnie Darko, showing a creature closely resembling Frank the Bunny. In actuality, the story revolves around two estranged brothers attempting to reconcile their cultural differences on a remote hunting trip in British Columbia. As a family drama, Devil in the Dark succeeds; as a monster movie, it doesn’t quite deliver.
Clint (Payne) and Adam (Dunne) have always been different: Adam, as the little brother, was always reading comic books and getting picked on while Clint was busy becoming the alpha male outdoorsman. Obviously, I identify a little more with Adam, and you probably do to. Although they’ve been out of touch for years, Clint decides it’s time to have a little male bonding out in the woods, where getting closer to Adam is probably secondary to emasculating him out in the middle of nowhere. Once they’re out of cell tower range, a creature of seemingly ancient origin taps into Adam’s dream state in addition to unnerving both siblings during waking hours. This is where the heart of the film starts beating, showing Clint’s survivalist instinct kick in to try and save his brother instead of using it to dominate him.
This setup ends up being more cathartic due to an early scene where, as kids, Adam was found in a state of near catatonia after a psychologically scarring incident involving his father and whatever else was lurking in the wilderness that day. Once the two men set up camp, the same creature seems to recognize Adam by infecting his psyche instead of going after the more obvious threat of the stronger and more experienced Clint. The driving force of Devil in the Dark is both brothers trying to reconnect, but it’s the connection involving the demon in the woods that ultimately becomes more compelling.
Dan Payne’s emotional performance and the boneyard lair of the creature are the centerpieces of the film; and once it becomes strictly a rescue mission, the momentum forged by the earlier character development keeps you invested. Although the creature’s limited screen time is disappointing at first, it’s forgiven if the “devil” is more metaphor than monster.
The relationship works in Devil in the Dark, but if the creature is a manifestation (and that’s open to interpretation), there’s still a feeling of being misled if you’re hoping for wood creatures from a lost age instead of a possible representation of guilt and loss.
Devil in the Dark is available on VOD beginning today from Momentum Pictures.