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Home » Culture and Criticism

23/31: Out Of The Dark

Submitted by on January 24, 2015 – 8:14 AMNo Comment
Screen: Participant Media

Screen: Participant Media

Scott Speedman is made for horror heroism, isn't he?

I didn't care for the Underworlds, but I liked Speedman in/for them. Going back to Felicity, he's projected a likable general competence, balanced on either side with the foxy twinkle/Canuck pronunciations and a humanizing impulsivity. Not to project Ben Covington onto everything Speedman does now, but…actually, why not. When you rewatch Felicity now, he tends to come off the best after everything, despite the infidelity buckshot his character gets assassinated with in the last season and I already went down the Felicity rabbit hole sahhhh-reeeeee. My point! The same qualities that made Ben appealing make Speedman, IMO, a credible horror hero.

Alas, Out Of The Dark is not worth his time, or yours. It's got a solid cast — Speedy; Julia Stiles, trying heroically to un-genre the thing with genuine reactions; Stephen Rea, who's also sort of perfect for this brand of story in a strange Eeyore way — and it takes the time to explain things I made snitty notes about (their child, born to an American and a Canadian, sounds more British than the hilariously posh "please, Misteh Gen'ral! please let my daddy down!" kid in Superman II, but the kid was born in London and lived there until the movie starts; thank you, script). But the slow build of the first act never really goes anywhere, the scares are too few and too far between, and we figure out the ghosts' vengeful motivations half an hour in and then have to wait another 30 minutes for the characters to catch up. With lines like "Have you seen the financials from 20 years ago?" Dear reader, I ask you: have you ever asked for files in this manner? Because I'm asking for specific documents — P/L statements; medical billing — from a specific year. Aren't you? "Have you seen the petty-cash book from 1993?"

It sounds like a minuscule nit to pick, but the aforementioned motivations have to do with uncovering an American paper company's horrendous mishandling of mercury poisoning in children, so wedded to a half-baked horror tale is a corporate=malfeasance thriller about environmental responsibility in the Third World — not a terrible idea! Could turn into an entire subgenre of scary movies! But the inexactitude means it's just a PSA ("They were just children!" Stiles bleats, probably more disgusted to find that she's in a limp "Daddy has dark secrets" C movie than that her character's father disappeared a bunch of dying kids).

Too many genre cliches (only in the movies do children wander off in greenmarkets this frequently, or draw this many cutesy renditions of their families with colored pencils), not enough startles (the Asthma Ankle-Biter Brigade is not very scary or gross). One of the movies it's trying to be is all right, but as both, it's a pass.

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