Thursday, February 26, 2015

Out of the Dark: a Colombian Grudge

Mercury is a naturally occurring element, so who’s to say there really was a spill at the “old paper mill?” Or maybe those grudge-holding supernatural hellions are actually the restless spirits of children killed by conquistadors instead of mercury-riddled kids. Either way, they want some payback against exploitative westerners in Lluís Quílez’s Out of the Dark (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in New York.

Sarah Harriman has come to Colombia from the UK to take over the old man’s paper mill. Not the “old mill,” mind you. Nobody goes there anymore. She will be managing the shiny new mercury-free mill. Her husband Paul is able to stay at home with their daughter Hannah, because he is a children’s book illustrator. Is that job really cool enough though? Maybe he should have been a rock & roll children’s book illustrator.

As we know from the prologue, there are some very hacked off whatevers haunting the Harrimans’ palatial new digs. Poor Dr. Contreras Sr. will sacrifice his life for the sake of our exposition. Before long, they start tormenting young Hannah, who subsequently starts exhibiting signs of a bizarre malady. Of course, the Harrimans are concerned, but they keep shutting her door tight and nipping off to the opposite side of the oligarchical estate. Hey guys, maybe keep the door open a crack or buy a baby monitor or just quietly check on her every so often? Before long, the malevolent beings make off with Hannah, driving each Harriman out looking for a trail to follow.

It seems like an awful lot of Out consists of the Harrimans standing around, saying things like “oh, don’t disturb her, I’m sure she’s fine.” Still, the house is terrifically creepy. Also, Julia Stiles and Scott Speedman come across like a believable couple (but not too bright). As Grandpa Jordan, Stephen Rea is a dependably intriguing screen presence, especially when he skulking around, greasing the palms of corrupt Colombian politicians. However, young Pixie Davis is the only member of the family who sounds legitimately British (somehow she has an Irish grandfather, a Canadian father, and an American mother).

Frankly, Stiles has been criminally under-rated. She was terrific in Twelfth Night at the Delacorte (Shakespeare in the Park), but this is probably not the film that will win over hearts and minds. While Out looks suitably atmospheric, it is simply too slow and clunky. Colombia should have gotten more for their new tax incentives. Beyond the impressive real estate, it is just another tepid, logic-challenged genre outing. Not recommended, Out of the Dark opens tomorrow (2/27) in New York at the Quad Cinema.