Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: Jack Heller
Cast: Kevin Durand, Lukas Haas
Been waiting for a genuinely awesome flick about the much-feared wendigo? Jack Heller is finally here to save the day! Dark Was the Night was a relatively quiet production. There was an obvious dearth of media plugs in the buildup to the film’s release, and it didn’t land on too many big screens. However, it deserved a major push. While not a perfect film by any means, it is a very well-acted picture with some unorthodox but appealing cinematography and one of the finer approaches to the wendigo.
The story follows local law man, Paul Shields as he attempts to solve a mystery that has the rural community of Maiden Woods on edge. Strange tracks surface in the town. Livestock is going missing. Soon, bodies begin to pile up. And it’s all up to Shields to put the pieces of the puzzle together. But as Shields grows closer to the truth the unfathomable becomes a serious probability. Eventually Shields has no option but to admit that the culprit is no human. It may, as far-fetched as it seems, be related to one of the many urban legends perpetuated by the locals: a wendigo lives in the woods, the people claim… and now it seems they may actually be right. Can Shields bring the terror to an end before more die, or is Maiden Woods doomed to be wiped off the map?
There’s no denying it, I loved this movie. Kevin Durand (who currently stars in FX’s The Strain) is a stellar lead. He’s got presence and he’s got compassionate. He’s also dealing with some life altering personal problems which makes his job far more difficult than it need be. He’s having trouble waking up to face the day, let alone serve and protect the people of Maiden Woods. But protect them he does. With the help of his deputy Donny Saunders (played by the awesome Lukas Haas) the man is able to track the menace of his town until the inevitable showdown unfolds inside the walls of the local church.
Durand’s performance is stellar. But he isn’t the only one that hits the ball out of the park. Haas does a terrific job, and his character Donny, much like Shields, has recently suffered a terrible life injustice. These two are dealing with extreme emotional turmoil and both Durand and Haas sell that turmoil seamlessly. We’ve also got a few supporting performers who really shine. The always top-notch Nick Damici appears as the wise and wide-eyed bar owner, Bianca Kajlich kills as Paul’s estranged wife, Susan, and Heath Freeman picks up big points as the edgy resident eager to pull the trigger on an enemy he’s completely foreign to. It’s a very strong, well-rounded cast.
The cinematography is also a wonder to behold. Ryan Samul creates an unconventional piece by incorporating a few dramatically different filming styles throughout the course of the picture. It proves a wise decision, as it’s hard to take your eyes off the screen. The special effects are solid, and it comes with great pleasure that I can tell you that – in the end – we’re treated to a pretty cool creature reveal and a fair battle between man and monster.
Dark Was the Night may have gone unheralded up to this point, but it stands a fair chance of catching on with genre fans. It isn’t an entirely perfect picture (look for a big tonal change in the final act that could throw some off), but it does emit heart. The cast is great, the look of the film is great and the fact that we’ve finally got a genuinely engaging wendigo flick is a fanatic’s blessing. Dark Was the Night is one of the greatest wendigo films ever made.