Synopsis – A couple and their daughter move to Colombia to take over a family manufacturing plant, only to realize their new home is haunted.
My Take – Having gone through a couple of reviews of this film out there & after watching it last night, I actually agree with most reviews! This film is more of a mystery thriller with some horror elements rather than a horror movie. It’s just not as scary or creepy enough to qualify. Yes! it has some jump scare moments, which are kinda generic and predictable. But as this ghost or horror story progresses, the plot elements just get too nonsensical and unbelievable. The twist in the movie also might have been interesting, had it not been drowned out by way too much hokiness and melodrama. If you start watching this movie in hope to see a great horror movie, you will end up disappointed. The story follows Sarah Holding and Paul (Julia Stiles and Scott Speedman) who have just arrived in Santa Clara, Colombia, with their young daughter Hannah (Pixie Davies). Sarah has a new job at the paper factory owned by her father (Stephen Rea), while Paul works from home as an illustrator for children’s books. And as they settle into their gorgeous new house in a lush neighborhood, the community is preparing for its annual Saint Children Festival, commemorating a tragic event at least 500 year old.
However, the family will soon become aware of the town’s very dark history, where hundreds of years before the conquistadors rounded up all the children of the town and held them for ransom, and despite getting their ransom they ended up slaughtering all the children by burning them alive. It’s now believed the angry ghosts of these children haunt Santa Clara, thus it won’t be long before Sarah and her family soon find themselves as targets of these angry spirits, especially Hannah. But it’s something much more recent that seems to have sparked a malevolent force in the town, as everyone catches glimpses of swarms of face-covered children emerging from the rain forest. Frankly, the film starts out promising enough, giving it some potential for it to be a decent film, but it just doesn’t really pick up enough for this to happen, and apart from the odd moment here & there it stays pretty flat. It even lacks in the jump/scare department as well, and for a haunted horror film to not have any decent moments of the most common way to scare it’s audience, doesn’t bode well. The story’s rather predictable with no real twists or surprises, and is actually quite slow going for the most part, which can be OK as long as the story keeps your interest. This struggles to keep your interest, however, and it actually ends up feeling like a bit of a chore to make it through to the end. While I can’t think of an example for this story being used before, it doesn’t feel original or innovative, and doesn’t really keep you on edge guessing till the end. The ghosts are simply not scary! Director Quilez indulges in all the usual atmospherics, including sudden thunderstorms and power cuts, a sinister dumbwaiter and even a ball bouncing ominously down the stairs. Even so, he resists ramping up the horror too much, making the film feel more like a mystery as Sarah and Paul investigate the strange goings on, learning dark secrets about the town’s past. When someone mentions the “old paper mill” it’s clearly going to feature later on. And this gives the movie an intriguing sense that perhaps not everything that’s happening is supernatural. That said, the plot is so thin that it barely exists, held together by a hint of subtext and the grounded performances. Yes, the acting is decent, as both Stiles and Speedman play everything with utmost seriousness, even though their characters are only sketchily defined. Of course, both have done better roles before!
Little Pixie Davies is everything a passive child victim is cut out to be in such films – innocent, adorable and helpless. She is a delight! Stephen Rea gives his usual combination of old world charm and shifty secrecy, but even he is only barely there. Aside from a nanny (Vanesa Tamayo), no one else really registers as a character at all. Instead, the film’s real star is its setting, with its constantly changing weather and deep shadows. So it’s a shame that the script doesn’t use more of the cultural landscape, which is deployed for little more than ambiance. This leaves the entire film feeling rather slight, never quite making anything of the corporate responsibility sub-themes that might have given a subtle thriller a meaty center. Yet, I could only shake my head in disbelief at some of the decisions of the family members as the threats increase. As mentioned, it all seems to spiral into a non-believable mess, despite a twist in the story that might have been intriguing. First time director Lluis Quilez unfortunately chose the path of “by-the-numbers” scares and let it deteriorate into too much melodrama! On the whole, ‘Out of the Dark’, is a perfect example of a missed opportunity, with a fresh setting, talented cast & a seemingly lesser used concept of ‘Haunted children’ at its disposal, but ultimately, lacked the depth and substance to make it a very effective Horror film. Frankly, it can be considered as an average mystery film, other than a R rated horror as its being advertised or probably just another below average run-of-the-mill haunted horror films that fails to deliver for about 90% of the time. It’s not a horrendous movie, but it’s definitely far from being one of the best!
Director – Lluís Quílez
Rating – R
Run Time – 92 minutes