Out of the Dark
dir Lluis Quilez
scr Alex Pastor, David Pastor, Javier Gullon
prd Belen Atienza, Andres Calderon, Cristian Conti, Enrique Lopez Lavigne
with Julia Stiles, Scott Speedman, Stephen Rea, Vanesa Tamayo, Alejandro Furth, Pixie Davies, Alvaro Garcia Trujillo, Elkin Diaz, Maria Fernanda Yepes, Edgar Duran, Beatriz Elena Angel, Jhoceb Andres Primo
release US 27.Feb.15
14/Colombia Participant 1h32
Out of the Dark
He's behind you! Stiles and Speedman with Davies and Primo

stiles speedman rea
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Out of the Dark More of a gradual mystery than a full-on horror movie, this South American film is made with enough skill to almost make up for its under-powered script. The plot feels badly contrived, while the scares are of the somewhat overfamiliar variety. But the film has loads of atmosphere thanks to its setting, and an eco-thriller slant adds some interest.

Sarah and Paul (Stiles and Speedman) have moved to Santa Clara, Colombia, with their young daughter Hannah (Davies). Paul is an illustrator, while Sarah has taken a new job with her dad Jordan (Rea), who runs a paper plant. They arrive just as the town is preparing for the annual Saint Children Festival, commemorating a tragic event from the conquistador era. But more recent events seem to be behind an apparent ghostly infection in Sarah and Paul's gorgeous new home on the edge of the rainforest. And then Hannah begins acting peculiarly.

Director Quilez can't resist including all kinds of horror movie cliches, from a freaky dumbwaiter to a ball bouncing ominously down the stairs. Not to mention cutting out the power at a key moment, or following eerily face-wrapped children into dark alleyways or thick jungle. But for the most part, he resists over-egging the scariness, keeping things quietly insidious as the script layers in some issue-based drama. At times, it's easy to believe that what's happening isn't supernatural at all.

Stiles and Speedman play it straight, although they have little to do but run around getting increasingly terrified about the threat to their daughter. The real star of the film is the weather, which veers wildly from glorious sunshine to violent thunderstorms whenever something scary is about to happen. In other words, the film is a case of style over substance and only remains engaging because of the cast, even though the characters are stubbornly paper-thin.

And the plot is just as elusive, hinging on a tragic historical event plus echoes of more recent corporate irresponsibility. There isn't enough substance to the story to make us care what might happen next, but the film is extremely well shot and edited, with some terrific visual touches and a vivid sense of the location. If only the story had better reflected this cultural landscape rather than falling back on the standard movie gimmicks.

cert 15 themes, violence 24.Feb.15

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