OUT OF DARKNESS (2023) Review by Steve Kirkham

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OUT OF DARKNESS (2023)

4 stars
Signature Entertainment. Cinemas 23rd February

Set 45,000 years ago, OUT OF DARKNESS opens around the campfire with a disparate group of six telling tales of horror – there is Adem (Chuku Modu) their leader, Heron (Luna Mwezi) his son, Ave (Iola Evans) Adem’s “wife”, who is pregnant, the old wise man Odel (Arno Lüning), Geirr (Kit Young), who acts as second in command and then there is the stray Beyah (Sofia Oakley-Green) who has attached herself to the group (and may be important as a possible “back-up” to Ave, if she miscarries again).

What follows, as they set-off on a journey to the ‘promised land’, is a story that could easily have been spun around that self same fire.

They need to survive and search out food across the bleak barren landscape. As they make their way over this forbidding terrain they find themselves being followed by some unseen force – is it a dangerous animal… a monster… a demon? Strange screeching and squeals emanate from the forest; from the darkness. Then one night Heron is snatched into the impenetrable gloom – do they try and follow and endanger their own lives?

Much like the cave people in ONE MILLION YEARS BC (1966) they communicate with their own dialect – though it is rather more nuanced than the grunts from that movie – and thankfully it is subtitled!

This is being sold as a horror movie and whilst this plays into that, it’s denouement and big reveal fails to deliver on that promise. That’s not to say it’s not effective – director Andrew Cumming uses the highlands of Scotland atmospherically and the cinematography by Ben Fordesman captures beautifully the dance of light from the fire, the desolation of the countryside and the grey, foreboding skies of the day.

The thrumming, percussive music and the use of sound add to building the ambience and the director also knows when to use silence to build tension. There is great use of the murk of night with minimal lighting highlighting the action – with firelight and moonlight used to illuminate, especially faces.

There are a couple of successfully executed jump scares and the film remains compelling throughout with a message that what threatens us may well be doing the same as us – trying to survive.

Sadly there are no dinosaurs!

Originally called THE ORIGIN – I assume this was retitled due to Ava DuVernay’s higher profile production ORIGIN, which is due out around the same time.

Steve Kirkham