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OUT OF DARKNESS

I levelFILM I February 9, 2024 I

Starring:  Chuku Modu, Kit Young, Safia Oakley-Green, Iola Evans

Directed By: Andrew Cumming

A small boat reaches the shores of a raw and desolate landscape. A group of six have struggled across the narrow sea to find a new home. They are starving, desperate, and living 45,000 years ago. First they must find shelter, and they strike out across the tundra wastes towards the distant mountains that promise the abundant caves they need to survive. But when night falls, anticipation turns to fear and doubt as they realize they are not alone. Terrifying sounds suggest something monstrous at large in this landscape, something that could kill or steal them away. As relationships in the group fracture, the determination of one young woman reveals the terrible actions taken to survive.

REVIEW BY: Kurt Morrison

RATING 4.5 out of 5

The first great film of 2024 is here, ladies and gentlemen.

 

Director Andrew Cummings home run swing of a film has all the makings to be discussed for a long time. It is as bold as it is breathtaking and once again ignites the discussion on how great the state of independent filmmaking is right now.

Set 45,000 years ago, Out of Darkness revolves around a group of six who come ashore to a new land - cold, hungry, desperate and most of all, scared. Unaware of their new surroundings, the group sets out to find shelter somewhere in the vast, desolate landscape. All they continue to find is a state of bleak and dismal emptiness that begins to wear the group down day by day, as tempers flare and hunger strikes.

 

Financed in part by the British Film Institute (BFI) and Screen Scotland and filmed all the way back in November of 2020, the movie uses the bare yet beautiful lands of Gairloch, Scotland for its unknown setting. It is a dreary and damp terrain that is showcased magnificently by cinematographer Ben Fordesman, who captures its cold, gray November skies and barron landscape to help drive the point that this land takes no prisoners. The film sets itself up as an excellent ecological horror about how the elements begin to wear down the psyche of the prehistoric group of settlers but then takes a swift, gory turn into an absolutely brilliant monster film that uses sharp and carefully crafted visuals, as the entity begins striking down the group one by one.

As we begin to see the group’s deterioration, both physically and mentally, writer Ruth Greenberg starts exploring the psychology of the group as power struggles and hierarchy begin to rear their ugly head, tearing apart the group almost as bad as the monster hunting them. The simmering resentment and tension is paced so incredibly well, especially considering the film only has a runtime of one hour and twenty seven minutes.

Chuku Modu (Game of Thrones, The Good Doctor) stars as Adem, the clear leader and Alpha of the group. Although the dynamic between him and the other members is not clear at first, we start to understand how menacing and amoral he is when tensions start to flare. Consider me sold on Modu - as I hope to see him shine in more movies and television. He has charm and good looks but is effective and believable when it comes to being a sociopathic prehistoric megalomaniac.

 

Safia Oakley-Green is phenomenal as Beyah and someone whom I really hope to see take off into the stratosphere of acting. She brings prowess and heart to what becomes a surprisingly violent and savage affair, slowly becoming the voice of reason within her tribe. Same can be said for Kit Young, who stars as Geirr. His character is drawn to Modu’s Adem as both a leader and a brother-figure but we see that he is so frail and meek compared to the towering Adem. Both Oakley-Green and Young really shine thanks to their inability to stand next to the towering Modu, instead opting to try and use their reason instead of muscle to get the group to safety.

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The most impressive feat of Cumming’s film is the fact that an entirely fictional language is spoken by the actors for the entirety of the film. Yes folks, you read that correctly. A made-up language is communicated by people in this film and somehow the actors are able to speak this so convincingly and fluidly that it is an absolute spectacle to watch. I only found this out after my first viewing of Out of Darkness and it was such an absorbing idea to me, that I watched the film again to make sure I felt as strongly.

During my research to see if this was in fact real, I came to find out that the language, known as ‘Tola’, was based on a language called Basque. Basque is the oldest living language in Europe and the last surviving Paleo-European language spoken indigenously in Europe. What a phenomenal ideology to build your film around.

Out of Darkness had my attention from start to finish. It is an intelligent and well crafted horror film that creates an underlying sense of dread through and through, but never breaks the cardinal rule by showing us too much of the monster too soon. That slow burn along with the debilitating circumstances each character endures, constructed an eighty six minute long thrill that is already in the running as one of my favourite films of 2024. I ENCOURAGE you to go out and find Out of Darkness. Bravo to all involved!

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