They Wait in the Dark (2022) Review
They Wait in the Dark opens with a young girl staring at her mother’s corpse laying on her bed, a bloody wound where her throat used to be. The image is filtered as if a dream or a hallucination. And indeed it is a dream, one that Amy (Sarah McGuire, Found Wandering Lost, House of Forbidden Secrets) wakes up from in the corner of a convenience store, her adopted son Adrian (Patrick McGee) asleep on the floor next to her.
They’re on the run, not from the law but from Judith (Laurie Catherine Winkel, If Night Comes, Order 86), Amy’sviolently abusive ex. How violent is she? When w a truck driver directs a few raunchy comments her way she takes a knife to him rather than just kicking him in the nuts. Amy still bears a scar from that same knife.
Now, running out of money and options she’s heading back to the house she grew up in. A house that’s sat empty since her father was arrested for her mother’s murder. A house that has become a popular place for the local teens to party. And hold occult rituals.
Writer/director Patrick Rea (Fused, I Am Lisa) opens They Wait in the Dark as if it was a typical domestic thriller, following the fleeing victims of abuse. Amy’s friend Jenny (Paige Maria) mentions the kids holding seances, and we see a pentagram, but it’s well into the story before anything definitively supernatural actually happens.
Instead, Rea gives us flashbacks that begin to explain the real-life horrors of the cycle of abuse Amy has been through from her parents to Judith, and which now, as her temper and sanity start to fray, she fights to avoid visiting on Adrian. And it’s also out of that cycle that the spirit that does emerge to haunt them will come, and it will be bringing some unpleasant revelations with it.
While not quite what I was expecting, the first half of They Wait in the Dark is a fairly solid thriller that maintains an air of menace while concentrating on the relationship between Amy and Adrian and filling us in on Amy’s past. Jenny is mostly there to help with that filling in and we occasionally see Judith to help keep the tension up. I do wish Rea hadn’t made Judith quite so much of a cliche though, an icy blonde with short hair, cigarette perpetually in her mouth, listening to heavy metal, etc.
It’s in the final half hour after the entity in the house has begun attacking Amy and Judith finally learns their location that the film lays on the horror. And it does so quite effectively, though the real horror is probably not what you’re expecting as They Wait in the Dark has two major twists in its final act One you’ll probably have seen coming, the other certainly caught me by surprise.
The specter haunting the house is kept mostly off-camera until near the end of the film, but when we do see it it is creepy looking, if not terribly original. But the focus isn’t as much on it as it is on what humans are capable of doing to each other. And that is almost always the greater horror. And Rea does a good job of getting that point across.
Despite the story resting on a couple of dubious plot devices, surely her father’s rifle would have been stolen long ago, and it’s a big coincidence that leads Judith to Amy and Adrian. They Wait in the Dark is more tense than scary until the final act, but that delivers a satisfying series of payoffs that make it worthwhile.