Thursday, February 8, 2024

A 45,000-year-old hunk of horror

 The inhabitants of the world created by first-time director Andrew Cumming in Out of Darkness -- a movie that travels 45,000 years back in time -- may be dressed in furs and armed with wooden spears but they communicate in ways that feel authentic. Avoiding cartoonish grunts and exaggerated gestures, Cumming presents the movie's  dialogue with subtitles. A language reportedly was invented for the movie, which begins when a group of wanderers arrives on a barren shore, six people who've risked death to avoid starvation. Led by Adem (Chuku Modu), these nomads wind up fighting a screeching demon that seems to be mutilating whatever game it finds. One of the members of the group (Sofia Oakley-Green) is called a "stray,"  a woman picked up along the way. Oakley-Green's character doesn't fit easily into the patriarchal hierarchy that has been built around Adem. When Adam's son (Luna Mwezi) is snatched, Adem begins the search for him. Much of the movie takes place in dark wooded areas as Cumming works his way through what plays like a routine horror scenario. Turning the "stray" into one of the most assertive of the travelers  adds a feminine twist to a story that tries to expand its way out of what initially appears to be a genre trap. Cumming has more in mind than gore and jolts, but it's not easy to escape the horror trap he's set for himself. I give him credit for trying and offer this footnote: Once you’ve finished watching, you may want to rethink the title's meaning. 

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