I’m probably going to compare Dark Was The Night to the movie I just reviewed last week, Blood Moon (2014), even though they’re a hundred and eighty degrees apart. For starters both are a fusion of creature feature and a genre you typically don’t see fused with such rampaging monsters. Blood Moon is a western werewolf, Dark Was The Night is a family drama and a monster movie, and both excel expertly at the more “grounded plotlines,” and interestingly they both fail at varying degrees at the creature feature part.
When I first saw the trailer for this movie the creature was obviously kept out of sight, but the clues they laid down had me thinking it was a killer tree flick, which was perfectly fine with me. I love Day Of The Triffids, (the ’63 version and the ’81 mini-series, still haven’t seen the UK 2009 mini-series) and haven’t seen a “killer plant” movie in a long time, but I had a feeling it wasn’t about killer trees after I then saw the poster.
The creature feature is expertly woven into the Lifetime drama aspects so much so it started to give me doubts whether the eventual final reveal of this thing was going to live up to everything it had previously set down. And the creature isn’t revealed fully until the final 5-10 minutes, and it’s those final minutes that disappointed me enough to not want to add this otherwise finely crafted monster drama to my collection.
With Blood Moon the effects for the werewolf are at least consistent right up to the end, and practical, in Dark Was The Night, the teases of the creature throughout are done with practical in-camera effects. You get well crafted glimpses of strange hooves, front clawed limbs and in one scene a split second shot of the entire body leaping out of the glare of headlight beams. Then comes the final reveal and we get a CGI effect rather than the practical monster this should have been. Now for a monster movie to work you need some kind of original design and a good way to execute that design on film. Don’t get me wrong the CGI for this monster was good, and it should have been since there was only ten minutes or so of time to see it and enough money I would assume to make it look like decent CGI, but the CGI reveal comes off out of place with the rest of the practical FX teases and the design they chose did not in anyway wow me. It looks reptilian with a head that also reminded me of something shark-like, but clearly things I have seen before. And not something I would liken to forest dwelling. I mean, sure, a lizard, yeah, that does make sense for a forest, but choosing a lizard-like form comes off as an easy way out design. The hooves, however, were a nice woodland touch, but it supposedly can climb and navigate its way through trees like a monkey. That didn’t seem plausible to me with a pair of hooves.
There’s also a twist ending, which it seems all monster movies must have now. A twist ending I have seen before, and a downbeat one at that. It didn’t need this twist, in fact the movie works better without out.
On the plus side the drama of Sheriff Paul Shields (Kevin Durand), his soon-to-be ex-wife, Susan Shields (Bianca Kajlich), and their coping with their recent son’s death seems to be where all the attention to detail went. Paul was watching Tim but not close enough, he slipped in their kiddie pool, hit his head on the bottom and died. Six months have gone by and Paul is still having trouble with his grieving, so much so it’s shoved a wedge in their marriage and when the movie opens he’s already living apart from Susan and his surviving son.
Lukas Haas is Deputy Donnie Saunders, a New York cop, whose own tragedy made him want to leave big city life for something quieter. Nick Damici plays a local bartender who shares some of the more colorful local lore of Maiden Woods county and apparently for centuries there has been stories of “things in the woods,” things that won’t hesitate to kill.
Like Blood Moon the character development, the actors, the landscapes are all easily relatable. This part of Dark Was The Night gets an A+, but filmmakers have got to remember if you’re shoving something “monstrous” into your real world the creature is just as important as the “real world” and needs just as much attention. In my opinion those final ten minutes destroys everything that comes before it. And everything that came before was damn near perfect.
Cinematography was good too. It’s a winter movie so everything filmed outside is desaturated, which I thought was a nice artistic touch.
Come September 1st Image Entertainment releases Dark Was The Night on separate DVD and Blu-ray editions. As of this review the blu-ray is a Best Buy Exclusive. It doesn’t go wide until November.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 2.40:1 high defintion widescreen—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio—English SDH
- Behind The Scenes: A Trip To Maiden Woods (7:33)
- Q&A With The Cast Of Dark Was The Night (8:32)
The “blown money shot” was more frustrating to witness in this movie than it was in Blood Moon. With Blood Moon there was no single “blown money shot” because the money shot was spread out but as I mentioned at least it was consistent. With Dark Was The Night it all comes down to “that one crucial moment” that should have splashed itself hard all over the place, instead it went tragically limp and dribbled on the floor.