Out Of The Dark follows a couple and their daughter Hannah as they move to Colombia to take over the family manufacturing plant. However, when shadows start appearing at the windows they begin to fear that their house is haunted, and seek out the history of the area to get an explanation for the strange goings-on.
Far from awful, Out of the Dark suffers mainly from its lack of originality and surprises. It meanders down a recognisable route for much of its run time, stopping off for a few effective scares along the way but still ending in familiar territory. The monster lurking in the dark corners of a child’s bedroom – which is real, obviously – and the child being eventually taken by said monster is the basic concept we have here and the journey we take to get from A to B is a mostly humdrum, unsatisfying experience. There are a lot of pacing issues, making the film feel far longer than it actually is and a few scenes could do with a bit of a speed-up. That being said, there are times when the film benefits from its slow pace, particularly when trying to drum at tension when Hannah gazes at her magical – it comes and goes as it pleases! – unicorn toy appears in the ominous elevator shaft in her bedroom. Even though the film doesn’t muster up any genuinely frightening, skin-crawling or nightmare-inducing fear, there were a couple of jump scares that took me by surprise. Also, the bandage-wearing young children are creepy on their own and their frequent heavy breathing is a little bit unsettling.
The story centres on a typical American family and they do not set themselves apart from the million other families we see in haunted house flicks like this. They are sad when they need to be sad, positive when they need to be and have an overall air of “we need to stick together” surrounding them. Most supernatural horrors revolve around the need for the family to come together by the end, and this is no different. The typical gender roles associated with horror are altered in Out of the Dark, with the mother actually being the parent separated from the family as she focuses on her new job. The father’s role becomes the one to encounter the supernatural forces first and it is his job to persuade his wife that something other-worldly and unexplainable is going on. This is a nice touch and is one of the few ways this film tries to carve its own identity. The father-daughter relationship is at this story’s core and it is presented in a touching, heartfelt way; the pair sharing frequent sweet moments which emphasises the bond between them. The mother-daughter relationship is far more complex. There are subtle nods to the mother being absent, seen in her obliviousness to her daughter’s sinister drawings and decision to “get some rest” rather than attempt to discover the reason for Hannah’s illness; suggesting that the film is a comment on absent mothers. There are some smart layers to this film and there is a but to delve in to, showing that Lluis Quilez does have an interesting story to tell. However, it just doesn’t come across as well as it should.
There are also ideas surrounding the fear of change present. The family’s move to another country has caused an upheaval in their lives, leaving them emotionally open to supernatural forces. Setting the film in Colombia and pitting an American family against terrors in a foreign land has many connotations if you wish to draw them out. The film’s deeper meanings become clear as it draws to a close and we get the final reveal, but I won’t spoil that. I will say, however, that the explanation we are given falls a bit flat, despite its attempt to be a real shocker.
Nonetheless, it does tie a nice little bow around the story and some themes revolving redemption and forgiveness are thrown around for good measure. It’s a touching end, but it doesn’t offer enough to prevent this film from being, overall, quite forgettable.
It is a shame that placing the American family in unfamiliar territory becomes ironic, because the film itself does not manage to step in to new, unpredictable terrain. It may not be able to escape mediocrity, but Out Of The Dark does not sink in to complete awfulness, thanks to some competent direction and a good cast of actors. There’s plenty to enjoy and if you’re after some tame frights then this should do the trick.
Words: Jessy Williams