In the Dark Half

"Very Good"

In the Dark Half Review


Moody and atmospheric, this low-budget British thriller gets under the skin as it explores the complex emotional life of a teen girl. And even if it's both elusive and overwrought, the film's eerie tone holds our attention.

Marie (Barden) is a 15-year-old loner who has an unnatural interest in death.

She regularly steals rabbits from the snares of her loner neighbour Filthy (Curran), to give them a proper burial. And her curiosity takes a dark turn when Filthy's young son Sean dies suddenly while she's babysitting. After the initial shock, she starts to feel that is communicating with Sean beyond the grave. Meanwhile, her mother (Marshal) is frantically redecorating their house, while her best friend (Henshaw) has grown tired of her morbid obsession.

Siddons directs the film with an intensity that never lets up, portraying the suburban neighbourhood as a gateway between the lights of the nearby city and the deep, dark woods on the other side. These trees are surrounded by looming shadows, foreboding wildlife and flickering lights, hinting that there are spirits roaming the hills. At the centre is Marie's secret bunker, where she goes to talk to Sean.

This is a rather over-serious film that never relieves the pressure with real-life comedy or off-handed interaction. Everything is played for full emotional impact, which leaves the actors stuck in one-note performances.

Still, each one is terrific as a wounded, needy person who simply can't reach out to someone nearby. Barden captures Marie's overpowering need to understand life and death long before we begin to understand why. And Curran is terrific as the town pariah whose sad, quiet existence unravels so tragically.

Like The Sixth Sense, this film overlays a personal drama with a supernatural horror story while slowly filling in the details of the mystery until we have the full picture. Along the way there are some surprises in store, and director Siddons is maintains a fairly relentless sense of downbeat gloom. But this also gives the film a charge of genuine terror, including a few big jolts. The emotional layers of these characters are so raw that the film is increasingly painful to watch. But that only means that the filmmakers are doing their jobs effectively.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 85 mins

In Theaters: Friday 10th August 2012

Budget: $482.9 thousand

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
Fresh: 5 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 5.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Alastair Siddons

Producer: Margaret Matheson

Starring: Simon Armstrong as Steve, Jessica Barden as Marie, Richard Goss as Mourner, Georgia Henshaw as Michelle, Tim Lewis as Mark

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