I had at least modest hopes for director Conor McMahon’s 2014 effort From The Dark given that I was reasonably impressed a few months back with fellow recent-vintage Irish indie horror The Canal, but when you think about it, that makes about as much sense as figuring We Are Your Friends might be good just because, I dunno, Straight Outta Compton was. After all, they both come from the same country, and they’re both about music, right?
Which is not to say that McMahon’s modestly-budgeted little supernatural wannabe spine-tingler doesn’t have its moments (hell, for all I know, maybe We Are Your Friends does, too) — it’s just that they’re very few and far between, and come way too late to save the day.
The good news is that if you’re a fan of simple set-ups, they don’t come much simpler than this : young(-ish) lovebirds Mark (Stephen Cromwell) and Sarah (Niamh Algar) are on trip through the Irish countryside when they’re set upon by a creature from local legend who only hunts (and attacks) at night. They’re not very good at fighting back — witness the numerous times they could jab or stab at their pursuer with a number of sharp implements lying around but fail to do so, or the number of occasions when they could shine a light on the thing and send it scurrying but somehow have that “easy out” slip their mind (hell, for that matter they could just pull up stakes and go home at pretty much any time, as well) — but somehow they manage to stay alive long enough to make it to a semi-big confrontation at the end. Which actually isn’t a bad semi-big confrontation. Unfortunately, too much of what leads up to it is not just bad but downright dreary, so you probably won’t care all that much by then.
I give McMahon credit for not wasting a lot of time here — you barely get to know these characters before the trouble starts in, and frankly you barely get to know any more about them afterwards — but for a movie that completely hinges on throwing you in at the deep end and not letting up, he sure does take his foot off the gas a lot. And that’s when you realize that there’s just not much interesting happening here.
The actors by and large do okay with the slim material they’re given, so props to them for that, and the creature itself is reasonably well-realized, but the premise here is just too flimsy and nonsensical, and the pacing too awkward, for this to be considered anything like even a low-key “success.” You get the distinct feeling that everyone involved is giving their all, but “all” is a fairly relative term, and the problem with From The Dark is that it ain’t “all” that much.
Still, I suppose that there are worse ways to spend about 90 minutes of your life, so if it sounds like this one might be up your alley, it’s streaming on Netflix right now (which is how I caught it) as well as being available on Blu-ray and DVD from Dark Sky Films. I wouldn’t say it’s worth a rental, much less a purchase, but on a slow holiday weekend when you’ve got nothing else going on, pressing the red “play” arrow on your computer isn’t the dumbest thing you could possibly do. The sad fact of the matter is, though, that you’ll be sorely (if understandably) tempted to hit “stop” at about the halfway point, and if you do that, you’ll miss out on the only parts of the film that are really worth seeing.