In The Dark, 2015.
Written and Directed by David Spaltro.
Starring Grace Folsom, Lynn Justinger, Fiona Horrigan, Catherine Cobb Ryan and Kayla Leasure.
A skeptical grad student and a renowned paranormal specialist investigate a potentially haunted home and the troubled woman inside whose affliction may be beyond the capacity of either of them.
While the best of horror is held in high esteem, the genre is often disregarded as the black sheep of Hollywood. For every Halloween or The Shining, there are countless Vampire Hookers and Killer Klowns from Outer Space… these are real movies by the way and no, that wasn’t a typo.
Aside from cult classics such as The Blair Witch Project, indie horror doesn’t hold the best track record, which is why it’s surprising that director David Spaltro chose to tackle the genre for his third feature, following the indie dramas Things I Don’t Understand and …Around.
Fortunately, In The Dark stands tall above other indie horrors of its ilk, largely due to Spaltro’s background in dramatic storytelling. By taking the time to flesh out the personalities of each character, Spaltro grounds the horror and encourages the viewer to sympathise with their individual plights. This approach also enables Spaltro to use the special effects sparingly, a wise move considering the relatively low-budget.
This isn’t to say that In The Dark doesn’t impress visually. It’s rare to see cinematography of this standard in a low-budget horror, giving the illusion that the production cost more than it actually did, and this is due in large part to the work of cinematographer Gus Sacks. The opening credits are beautifully designed and the make-up used once Bethany’s possession begins to take hold is also effective. Unfortunately, sparing use of CGI to create a glowing effect in pivotal scenes towards the end detracts from the overall aesthetic and feels somewhat unnecessary.
Aside from a perfunctory boyfriend and the occasional apparition, Spaltro exclusively cast women in each of the four central roles, all of whom successfully transcend the horror archetypes of sceptic, believer etc. A particularly chilling confrontation between Justinger and Folsom in the final act demonstrates exactly why Spaltro has chosen to work with these talented actresses more than once. In what could have been a clichéd exploration of evil itself, the two performers manage to anchor the scene in the realm of possibility, no easy task within the realms of the horror genre.
Moments like this elevate In The Dark above the trappings of a typical possession movie, although more ambiguity in the central narrative could have elevated the film even further. By leaving little doubt in the audience’s mind that Bethany has been plagued by demonic forces, some of the tension between Justinger’s sceptical student and Horrigan’s expert is lost along the way. Depending on your perspective, it could be refreshing that Spaltro chose to lay all his cards out early on, distinguishing In The Dark from other possession movies of its ilk, but it’s a shame that the cause of Bethany’s condition wasn’t held back for just a few scenes more.
In The Dark isn’t the scariest film ever made, but it doesn’t need to be. Spaltro’s first foray into the genre is a chilling movie that circumvents many of the mistakes made by those new to horror, drawing tension from the characters themselves as much as the awful situation that they find themselves in. The ending may have been jarring for some, but in the classic tradition of horror, Spaltro left the story wide open for a sequel. Let’s hope then that In The Dark reaches a wider audience after completing the festival rounds, as this is one low-budget horror that actually holds genuine franchise potential while also serving as an enjoyable stop-gap during the wait for The Conjuring 2.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
In The Dark debuts on the festival circuit this October and Things I Don’t Understand is available for renting/purchasing at http://www.tidu.vhx.tv. For more information, visit the official In the Dark Facebook page here.