OUT OF DARKNESS Final Poster 1

Out of Darkness (2022) Review

I can almost imagine Out of Darkness’ director Andrew Cumming (River City, Payback) pitching the film to potential backers as Quest for Fire meets Predator. And that would be a fairly accurate description of this Stone Age thriller about a tribe of early humans being picked off by an unseen foe. And one that makes it sound a lot less cerebral and more commercial than it might otherwise appear.

45,000 years ago, six early humans, have left their tribe to find a new home. Leading the group is Adem (Chuku Modu, The 100, Captain Marvel), who also has his young son Heron (Luna Mwezi, The Colony, School of Champions) and Ave (Iola Evans, Choose or Die, Phea) who’s carrying Adem’s child along with him.

Also making the trek are Geirr (Kit Young, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The School for Good and Evil), Adem’s more cautious second-in-command and Odal’s (Arno Lüning, Divine Comedy, Bad Girls) who seems to be some kind of shaman and last, and certainly least, Beyah (Safia Oakley-Green, The Lazarus Project, She Said) a stray who they’ve let travel with them.

Still 2 from OUT OF DARKNESS

The script by Ruth Greenberg (Run) based on a story by Cumming and Oliver Kassman stacks the odds against them right from the start. They found the new land Adem promised to lead them to, but the soil is barren, and nothing edible grows in it. So they’re on the move again in search of food and a warm cave to call home. Unfortunately, that search takes them into the territory of something that doesn’t want new neighbours.

Two things that immediately help Out of Darkness feel authentic are the setting and the dialogue. Cumming filmed in some of the more mysterious and inhospitable areas of the Scottish Highlands, and cinematographer Ben Fordesman (Saint Maud, The End of the F***ing World) makes it look like a slice of prehistory. Combined with dialogue spoken in a language created for the film, it creates an immersive experience that draws the viewer into the story.

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And that in turn makes it near impossible not to be caught up like the film’s characters when something carries off Heron and Adem leads the others into the forest he previously refused to enter in order to find his son, only to find he’s gotten them into a situation his spear and his cunning can’t get them out of. But this isn’t just a prehistoric survival horror story. As their unseen foe whittles their numbers down, Out of Darkness deals with the shifting group dynamics and as they start to turn on each other, then as now, humans can be a bigger threat to each other than any monster.

The mostly unfamiliar cast does an incredible job of conveying this, despite speaking a language intelligible only via subtitles. They use tone of voice, body language and facial expressions to convincingly portray the chaos and terror of the situation in a way words at the bottom of the screen can’t on their own. Safia Oakley-Green stands out as Beyah unexpectedly finds herself in the middle of it all and may be their only hope, if her companions don’t kill her first.

Still 4 from OUT OF DARKNESS

Unfortunately, all of this makes Out of Darkness’s rather lacklustre resolution even harder to take than it normally would be. I see the point the filmmakers are trying to make, but it’s poorly done and doesn’t deliver the punch that it should. It’s a disappointing fumble at the last moment that hurts the film, but thankfully can’t ruin it. There’s more than enough here to make this a film worth seeing, and to mark it as an auspicious debut feature for its writer and director.

Bleecker Street Media will release Out of Darkness to theatres on February 9th.

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