THEY WAIT IN THE DARK (2023)
Release Date: 02/07/23 [VOD]
Studio: 1091 Pictures
"Amy, a young woman is on the run with her young son Adrian from her abusive ex-girlfriend. When the past rises up to haunt them, they must confront the forces threatening them from both outside and in."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
There is something to admire about small independent films that separate them from the conventions of industry movie-making. These smaller forays into storytelling make up for their need for more budget by having the freedom to experiment and subvert expectations. However, these exercises don’t always yield great results. Sometimes the tried and true formulaic style many filmmakers use to tell their stories pays off. It’s this latter method I wished filmmaker Patrick Rea used in his new film They Wait in the Dark.
This film has a provocative poster that might signal to some viewers that a good horror treat is waiting for them once the movie starts rolling. But they end up finding that minimal horror is written in at all. Most of this film is a flimsy examination of a broken family system that left me more frustrated and satisfied.
Amy (Sarah McGuire) is on the run with her adopted son Adrian (Patrick McGee); they’re eluding Amy’s ex-partner, Judith (Laurie Catherine Winkel), by sleeping in gas stations and motels. With the help of her old friend, Amy takes Adrian to an old family farmhouse to hide out. For how long will they be hiding? Who knows. It doesn’t seem to matter.
Judith is hot on their trail, provoking ire from the people she encounters as she hunts down Amy and Adrian. What will Judith do when she finds them? I don’t know. It also doesn’t seem to matter. In the meantime, Adrian begins seeing and hearing people and noises in the house. There is some supernatural presence in the house only he can notice; this drives an already agitated Amy into a further spiral.
This dynamic of having a conflict from outside and from within for Amy and Adrian might have landed better in another film. This concept needs to be revised here. Writer/Director Rea tries to lace in horror elements sparsely as the film progresses, but his efforts aren’t rewarded. The big scary showdown doesn’t unfold until the last ten minutes.
I can forgive choppy writing if I believe in the characters, the acting, and the conviction. But I was incapable of doing so. The Amy character has two significant strikes against her: she has the worst approach to dealing with children with any patience or care (an ironic trait given her revealed motivation later), and McGuire overacts to the point of fatigue. She may be a good actress in other projects, but she didn’t bring those chops to this film. Her delivery mirrored virtually every other performance here: amateur and green. The uncomfortable dialogue adds to the overall detriment of the film.
The major drawback isn’t the flimsy acting, the undercooked Amy backstory, or even the desperate twist-ending attempt. They Wait in the Dark was boring. The 84-minute runtime was a slog where I checked my watch, waiting every 10 minutes for something of interest to occur. Credit is due to the lighting department, however. The cinematography was enticing and satisfying for the few scenes that needed its help.
They Wait in the Dark would have you believe it to be a clever one-two-punch family drama that smartly pivots into horror with a knockout twist ending. Sadly, it tries to punch above its weight class, leaving the audience K.O.ed.