OUT OF DARKNESS (2024)
Release Date: 02/09/24 [Cinemas]
Genre: Horror. Thriller.
Studio: Bleecker Street.
"In the Old Stone Age, a disparate gang of early humans band together in search of a new land. But when they suspect a malevolent, mystical being is hunting them down, the clan are forced to confront a danger they never envisaged."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
Out of Darkness is a bleak, minimalist, prehistoric thriller from director Andrew Cumming and writer Ruth Greenberg, both making their feature debuts.
Originally called The Origin, the film picked up five nominations and one win at the 2022 British Independent Film Awards before being retitled last year ahead of a theatrical release in early 2024 by Bleecker Street.
Shot on location in Scotland and making incredible use of sweeping vistas, the story is set 45,000 years ago. A handful of villagers and one “stray” are struggling to find a new home in an unforgiving environment devoid of food and shelter. When a boy from the group is taken in the night by a mysterious creature, the already fractious relationships start to crumble as the remaining five men and women struggle to survive.
The dialog, according to the credits, is entirely in the Tola language. A 2022 article on TheFace.com clarifies this “fictional prehistoric speech” was based on Basque and created by Dr. Daniel Andersson, and then translated into English subtitles.
That level of effort speaks to the incredible detail and care that went into Out of Darkness.
Cinematographer Ben Fordesman and the Scottish landscapes carry much of the movie, which is, ironically, shot largely in darkness. Minutes pass by with entire scenes lit only by a campfire the size of a shoe. But it’s a wonderful device for building tension and anticipation. When there’s daylight, there are often long, overhead shots of the mountains, valleys and rivers that could have been pulled straight from a National Geographic imagining of a stone age wasteland.
The score by Adam Janota Bzowski is a wonderful compliment to the camerawork, sort of like a prehistoric Hans Zimmer, with sparse tribal sounds only occasionally augmented by synths that slowly – s l o w l y – build into bombast.
In front of the camera are mostly unknown or up-and-coming actors. Chuku Modu plays Adem, the leader of the tribe and the best hunter and warrior. With him are his lieutenant, Geirr (Kit Young), his pregnant partner, Ave (Iola Evans), son, Heron (Luna Mwezi), an older tribesman named Odal (Arno Lüning), and a stray castoff called Beyah (Safia Oakley-Green).
For a tense and captivating 90 minutes, there’s hardly another man or beast on screen – just six actors and the wilderness.
All the acting is capable, but two of the performers really carry the movie. Young shines as a reluctant leader who is forced to step up after a tragedy, and the conflict in his eyes tell so much of the story. But the real beating heart of the film is Oakley-Green as Beyah. As a character, she comes to the group timid and small, acting as a POV for the audience in this frightening and unfamiliar world. As an actor, Oakley-Green shows incredible depth and strength, with a special gift for subtly that plays perfectly into the pace of the film.
Out of Darkness is not for everyone. It can be slow and dark and particularly bleak, and there is one scene in particular that’s among the most gruesome in recent movie history. But for those with the patience – and the stomach – to stick with it, the rewards are great.
This is a brilliant debut from Cumming and Greenberg, a wonderful showcase for Oakley-Green, and a real treat for audiences looking for something bold and different at the theater in 2024.