Out of Darkness : Movie Review

Posted by Eddie Pasa on February 12, 2024 in / No Comments


Rated R by the MPA for violence and some grisly images. Previous title: The Origin. In Tola (an invented language) with English subtitles. Running time: 87 minutes. Released by Bleecker Street.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Out of Darkness, The Origin, Bleecker StreetA spare eight-person cast and a skeleton crew operating during the 2020 lockdown in a remote part of Scotland have pulled off a fascinating examination of our own instincts and how forcefully we protect what belongs to us. From the era in which our film takes place to our modern era, not much has changed: We spread out, we conquer, we take the resources, and we move on. And all’s the better if we choose not to understand or cooperate, right? Out of Darkness speaks to this very facet of human behavior in the face of the unknown and how we treat the “other.”

Breaking this film down reveals horror trappings, but only just; a natural fear of the unknown – exacerbated by the film’s prehistoric setting – sets on us fast, enveloping us in darkness and leaving us open to nature’s unpredictability. Taking place some 45,000 years in the past, Adem (Chuku Modu), pregnant mate Ave (Iola Evans), son Heron (Luna Mwezi), warrior Geirr (Kit Young), adviser Odal (Arno Luening), and “stray” Beyah (Safia Oakley-Green) have landed on a distant shore only to be met with harsh conditions and a distinct lack of sustenance. It’s not long before one or more of them begin sniping at Adem for landing them in such a desolate place with high winds and nary an animal to be found for food.

To make matters worse, some creature seems to be stalking them; thanks to cinematographer Ben Fordesman’s natural lighting look and clever editing by Paolo Pandolphino, we’re inclined to believe Adem’s word for it – “a demon.” When Heron is suddenly taken in the night, it’s up to the rest to find him and kill whatever took him. After tragedy strikes a second time, it’s made plain that it’s not just them against whatever’s out there; circumstances force Beyah and Geirr to fight for their lives against forces within and without.

Director Andrew Cumming uses horror movie staples – strange noises circling the explorers, inhuman shapes seen out of the corners of our eyes, a gruesome death befalling one of the main characters, and the all-encompassing fear of being exposed in unfamiliar surroundings – to ease us into this party’s struggle for survival, but Cumming doesn’t use them wantonly. He keeps the need to stay alive front and center, using these horror-movie devices as more of a propellant rather than being the main attraction. This is unique in that what we’ve come to know as “horror” over the last fifty or sixty years was just another day in this Epipaleolithic realm, where death waits for the cover of darkness to strike.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Out of Darkness, The Origin, Bleecker StreetThis six-person unit consists of well-chosen, committed actors who sink themselves into the era through little gestures and tics that give them singular definitions. Cummings directs them to have a more modern, familial ease used during quieter, intimate times, which seems a bit odd considering the era, but when someone’s jaw is ripped open and all hell breaks loose, we start to see their distinctive personalities and traits coming into harsh relief. Effectively, each actor gives their character a wall to put up between the others, lest betrayals lead to further malfeasance.

Centering us are the duo of Safia Oakley-Green and Kit Young, the two teenage figures among the pack. While Young plays the by-the-book warrior with a strength borne of fear, Oakley-Green takes a different approach and gives Beyah a street-tough feel, using instinct and action instead of learned tactics. Between these two, we watch the film evolve from survival horror to more of a fast-paced hunted vs. hunter game, with the winner wresting the right to live out of the hands of the defeated.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Out of Darkness, The Origin, Bleecker StreetBut when the final truth is revealed, it’s almost heartbreaking in that there really is no “winner.” Ruth Greenberg’s script is more about how our perspectives lead to actions, whether righteous or not. And what’s “righteous” differs when you’re on the other side, doesn’t it? There are a lot of layers to unpack with Out of Darkness, and Andrew Cumming makes a satisfying meal out of exhausting all the possibilities of this frenzied situation, leaving us with a solemn, damning message that lays bare a discomforting side of humanity we’d rather not see. But here it is, and it’s waiting for you to find it.

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Eddie Pasa

Eddie is a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). Since starting in 2010 at The Rogers Revue, Eddie has written for Reel Film News (now defunct), co-founded DC Filmdom, and writes occasionally for Gunaxin. When not reviewing movies, he's spending time with his wife and children, repeat-viewing favorites on 4k or Blu-Ray, working for rebranding agency Mekanic, or playing acoustic shows and DJing across the DC/MD/VA area. Special thanks go to Jenn Carlson, Moira and Ari Pasa, Viki Nova at City Dock Digital in Annapolis, Mike Parsons, Philip Van Der Vossen, and Dean Rogers.

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