Tuesday, February 06, 2024

Out of Darkness: Prehistoric Horror

In horror movies, nothing is scarier than the unknown. During the Stone Age, nearly everything was unknown. It logically follows, these homo sapiens will be scared witless. They should be, because something is preying on them in Andrew Cumming’s Out of Darkness, which opens Friday in theaters.

Motivated by hunger, Adem’s small band of six have migrated to northern Europe, in search of food. Unfortunately, they have yet to find any in the harsh tundra landscape. Beyah is starting to doubt his judgment, but as a stray taken in by the group, it is not her place to question him. Adem’s younger brother Geirr tries to look out for her, but Adem’s young son and heir Heron has first dibs on any food.

As they trudge forward, they start to hear strange noises. Then something attacks. It soon becomes clear the hunter-gatherers are the ones being hunted.

Out of Darkness
is an unusually immersive film, produced in “Tola,” a language developed by Dr. Daniel Andersson, based on Arabic and Basque, expressly for the film. The Stone Age setting looks legit and the dank, torch-lit landscape radiates a sinister vibe. There is definitely tension, peril, and menace, but it might not precisely scratch the itch of hardcore horror fans. Instead, this kind of primordial eeriness is perfect for fans of films like Valhalla Rising and The Norseman. Indeed, cinematographer Ben Fordesman’s evocative lensing skillfully builds the atmosphere of mystery and unease.

Frankly, as the severe Adem, Chuku Modu is almost as scary as whatever it is out there. He is most certainly an “Alpha male,” that’s for sure. Arno Luning is appropriately slimy portraying the shrewd older forager, Odal. In contrast, Kit Young looks a bit “soft” as Geirr, considering the early 20’s constituted middle age at that time. However, Safia Oakley-Green is convincingly tough, mentally and emotionally, as Beyah, a true Stone Age survivor.

To their credit, the entire cast looks and sounds natural speaking Tola and enduring pre-historic living conditions. The body language and physical performances of Rosebud Melarkey and Tyrell Mhlanga as the mysterious predators are also quite remarkable.

Out of Darkness is the best depiction of prehistoric man since Fred Schepsi’s Iceman (1984), considerably surpassing Felix Randau’s more recent Iceman (2019 U.S. release). It is certainly cold, dark, and brutish, in the way it intends. Recommended for fans distinctive horror-ish thrillers, Out of Darkness opens this Friday (2/9) in New York theaters, including the AMC Empire.