Were I to describe to you DEVIL IN THE DARK, you may be tempted to toss the film aside due to its accumulation of clichés. But, hear me out, these elements all work well in this film, and ultimately DEVIL IN THE DARK rises above its vanilla roots.
The film ultimately is a story of brothers who are searching for their connection. Clint (Dan Payne) has stayed in their hometown and started a family, while younger brother Adam (Robin Dunne) headed to the city to find fortune and a life more extraordinary. We see though flashbacks that this was never a revelation, it has always been this way. Because of this fundamental divide between the brothers, Clint was always closer to their father, which Adam resents to this day.
With little impetus, Adam reaches out to Clint to have a brother bonding hunting trip. Being a horror film, the hunting trip does not go smoothly. Deer, especially at night, can be creepy as hell, and the evil ones do not take lightly to armed hunters on their turf.
All of this sounds incredibly stale, right? Nothing we haven’t seen before. However DEVIL IN THE DARK succeeds in not only focusing on the brothers’ relationship, but in the consistency of the relationship. There is no major emotional inspiration behind their reconciliation, or a huge psychological anchor that makes them different types of people. Rather the film lets us organically explore the family dynamic between two men who just so happen to be related. This lack of shoehorning into an emotional explosion was refreshing and allowed for the film’s pivot into the horror elements to be less jarring.
There are plenty of horror elements when nature finally starts fighting back against the intruding siblings, but with an unfortunate lack of blood. DEVIL IN THE DARK expertly sets up the atmosphere and tension, but every time it is about to get good and gross, the camera cuts away. We occasionally see the outcomes of the gruesome episodes, but the flinching camera and editing took me out of the terror and merely made the violence bland.
Overall, DEVIL IN THE DARK takes the tale of two brothers in the woods and makes it a tale worth watching, even if it is for the 45th time.