The story is simple. A young couple on vacation on Ireland get their car stuck in the mud, and find themselves stranded in a remote stretch of countryside – and beset by vampires on all sides. It’s a throwback to the glory days of the genre, back when vampires were represented as pure evil – monsters in all senses of the word. They might look human, but make no mistake – they’re animalistic in their urges and the only human elements that remain is the knowledge used to hunt their prey.
From The Dark is well shot and looks very nice. I especially appreciated the opening scene where the first vampire is discovered. However, the film makes a crucial mistake in the first third once the couple is introduced, spending too much time focused on their conversation inside the car. While the banter flows well, it leaves too many questions about the nature of their relationship and doesn’t give us a good sense of who these people are. The inside of the car isn’t interesting to look at, and nothing of note really occurs during the conversation. It had the feel of one of those small human interactions that people often have in real life – but not one that really adds anything to the plot.
I’m torn over whether or not the vampires were revealed too early or not. The nature of the beast, so to speak, is obvious at the first scene. However, there is a purpose to this, as it allows the film to get started with establishing their own visual code. How their vampires appear and act is not how vampires have acted in other films; From The Dark has its own rules, and wastes no time in establishing them. However, a lot of the mystery is gone from the story once the vampires are established. Since the audience knows the rules of the genre, even though the characters don’t, there is an element of frustration as we wait for the cast to play catch-up to what the audience already knows. This is a delicate balance. I’m inclined to say that From The Dark revealed and identified the monster a little too quickly, though.
Visually, From The Dark does a whole lot with a very sparse set design. For a film that’s shot almost completely at night, I was surprised at how well the scenes of darkness turned out. There is an art to filming scenes at night, with keeping enough light for the audience to understand what’s happening, and yet keep it dark enough for the scene to flow realistically. From The Dark is one of those rare films that manages to do both throughout the entire story. I don’t think there was a single scene where I got lost or confused.
No matter how nice this film looks visually, the story has its set of problems. I never got a clear sense of who these characters were, what they wanted, and why I should care about them. The dialog flows nicely enough, but feels more like filler than anything with substance. From The Dark is a great technical achievement, but doesn’t tell much of a story. See it for the visuals, but don’t expect to care about what happens to the characters.