It’s surprising to me that most creepy pastas don’t find their way to film. If you aren’t familiar with the term, a creepy pasta is a short horror story that has its origins on the internet. I’ve written about some before (My personal favorite is Candle Cove.) including a short film about the infamous Goat Man (Weirdo). Creepy pastas generally don’t give you all the answers you crave. They are more unsettling than they are scary. For example, Candle Cove is a recollection of various adults of a strange television show they all watched. Nostalgia drives the story, and soon you find yourself almost remembering the show as well.
While it wasn’t spawned from a creepy pasta, Dark Was the Night just feels like one of the stories come to life. From its setup, I was hooked. As the story progressed, director Jack Heller hides a new creature from us using old school camera tricks that brought a tear to my eye. But, alas, the budget downfall catches up eventually. Does it have enough legs to spawn a franchise? Maybe. It’s a great start at least, and the creature is interesting. That’s 90% of the battle.
Dark Was the Night takes place in a small rural town Maine. It’s a logging community, the locals have settled in for the hard winter. Sheriff Paul Shields (Kevin Durand) is broken. An accident has claimed his son’s life, and the sheriff can’t see through all of the grief he’s feeling. While his wife (Bianca Kaijlich) tries to turn to her husband, he turns away from her. They are separated and share custody of their other son Adam (Ethan Khusidman). One evening, Adam spots somebody in the backyard. Paul investigates, but finds nothing. In the morning, however, the town makes the unsettling discovery of footprints throughout the town. They are hooves, but whatever walked on them walks on two feet. The tracks lead to each house’s windows and the town realizes that they’ve been spied on by some…thing.
As the tale unfurls, Paul investigates possible angles to these tracks to no avail. He’s joined by his new deputy Donny (Lukas Haas) and together they are plunged into a mystery that may not be easily solved. Murders complicate the investigations, as do the small town’s residents. But, honestly, it sets up like a slow burn Feast with its mysterious creature setup.
Now even though Dark Was the Night caught my attention and held it, my google-fu skills were put to the test early and often. I loved the setup with the footprints and discovered that a real event actually inspired this scene (Devil’s Footprints). The creature begins to feel more and more like a wendigo/skinwalker, and I nearly leapt out of my seat when I saw Paul searching for wendigoes. This movie hooked me from the get go in a good way: It was the movie I’ve wanted to see for a long, long time. Yes, it had the “big opening” that horror formulas dictate, but these events are unknown and play off like the opening scene of Jaws. The real creepiness is in the anticipation of what we are seeing.
And it’s here that Heller earns the respect he deserves. While teasing a creature that we’ve never seen or want to see, he hides it. He plays games with light and speed. As a character becomes more excited, the camera work follows. Multiple shadow shots and “just missed” shots are utilized and it really works well.
As for the creature, it’s not a wendigo or a skinwalker. It’s nothing we’ve seen before and Heller admits to painstakingly designing this creature with horror and practicality in mind. I don’t want to spoil it, but it actually looks like Venom (from Spiderman). There are a multitude of characteristics it pulls from many legends, but ultimately, what we see doesn’t quite rank in the reality scale.
This is what really distressed me about Dark Was the Night. I loved the directing. I loved the acting. I loved the story. It’s enough that it takes the film from “classic” to “good watch”, and that is a shame. I know why they used CGI. I just didn’t like the end result.
Dark Was the Night is definitely worth a look. You’re missing out on a great film if you don’t. But, don’t be let down by the finale. Accept it for what it is. Enjoy the movie for how good it is. There’s a franchise here that could be awesome with just a little more money.