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Review: DARK LIGHT (2019)

A young mother returns to the family home after a series of misfortunes. In this case, the breakup of her marriage, the death of her mother and a nervous breakdown. She simply wants a new start for her and her daughter, but fate isn’t going to let that happen. It’s a common enough setup for a film, and it’s what Padraig Reynolds (Rites Of Spring, Open 24 Hours) uses for his new film Dark Light.

The recent past has taken a toll on Annie (Jessica Madsen, Leatherface, Rambo: Last Blood). Dealing with her mother’s illness and death along with the knowledge her husband was cheating on her caused a breakdown. Recovered and with custody of her daughter Emily (Opal Littleton), she’s moved into her mother’s now empty house.

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Or maybe it isn’t so empty. From the start, strange things happen and Annie is convinced she sees something in the house and the cornfields behind it. Something that wants her daughter. The local sheriff (Kristina Clifford, Butt Boy) is dubious. When Emily goes missing and Annie’s ex (Ed Brody) ends up on the wrong end of a shotgun blast, she’s taken into custody. When the police van crashes, she’s given a chance to escape and find her daughter at all costs.

The first part of Dark Light is told in flashbacks as Annie is interrogated. This gets a bit confusing at times. Annie and the sheriff seem to transport from the interrogation room to other locations. After she escapes, the film settles into a more normal structure. She consults Walter Simms (Gerald Tyler, The Lighthouse) an alleged expert on local strange events and at this point, the film shifts gears again. It goes from ghost story to monster movie with only a few lines of dialogue. Or possibly the delusions of a homicidal madwoman, as the authorities think.

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Unfortunately, Dark Light has some gaping holes in its narrative. Just what are these underground creatures, and why do they need human children? Why do doors open and close themselves, are the creatures telekinetic? Why is there a cache of weapons and large denomination bills under the floor of the house’s bedroom?

There’s also way too much that we’ve seen before. The monster hiding in the back seat. All of the main players coincidentally end up back at the house for the climactic showdown. The escape from the creature’s lair that evokes Aliens. And the sequel ready final shot.

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The creatures themselves are fairly nasty-looking. All mouth and a huge glowing eye where their face should be. They resemble something that stalked out of an Italian Alien rip-off. And they’re realized with practical effects too, actor Weston Meredith in a monster suit. That might make Dark Light worthwhile for monster buffs.

For me though, Dark Light just never really gets going. It looks good, and it’s not boring, but it’s never overly exciting either. The elements are there, it all just lacks the spark to set it off.

Dark Light is available to stream from Vertical Entertainment.

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