GORE IN THE STORE
Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans
WHEN DARKNESS FALLS **
Directed by Nathan Shepke.
Starring Nathan Shepke, Emma O’Hara, Michaela Longden, Craig McEwan, Ben Brinicombe.
UK 2023 105 mins Certificate: 15
Released by Miracle Media Limited on Digital on October 2nd, 2023.
The generic title – it’s not to be confused with the same-named supernatural play by James Milton and Paul Morrissey – provides a nod to this film’s acknowledged inspiration, the memorably creepy British thriller AND SOON THE DARKNESS, in which Pamela Franklin spends the film searching for her cycling friend (Michele Dotrice) in pretty but oddly menacing rural France. It was pointlessly and lifelessly remade in 2010, relocating to Argentina and starring Amber Heard and Karl Urban.
Conceived during lock down and shot in the highest village in Scotland on a budget of £10,000, WHEN DARKNESS FALLS unites HOLIDAY MONDAY director-star Nathan Shepke with pal and prolific screenwriter Tom Jolliffe. The latter has racked up a vast number of straight-to-disc / streaming credits over the last few years, including WITCHES OF AMITYVILLE ACADEMY, FIRENADO, WRATH OF VAN HELSING and SCARECROW’S REVENGE.
It begins unpromisingly by introducing what appears to be the story’s central threat: Glaswegian Nate (Shepke) and his Londoner buddy Thomas (Craig McEwan). Their small talk over a cup of tea gives us the measure of their grim date-rape activities (among other things) but is peppered with awkwardly delivered, godawful lad-banter: “I just wanna get the feeling back in my dick mate!” and our favourite, “Either we get some fuckin’ skirt or I’m gonna start looking at you funny”.
This kind of heavy-handed character development and shoehorned exposition proves to be characteristic of the movie as a whole, including with the introduction of two likeable American friends, Andrea (Emma O’Hara) and Jess (Michaela Longden), who are in the Scottish Highlands-sans mobile phones - for a bit of escapist hiking. Andrea wants to have fun and is happy to flirt with Thomas and Nate, whom they encounter in an inevitably unwelcoming local pub, but Jess is wary and just wants to move on. Ultimately, they get separated, Andrea vanishes, and unfriendly locals prove to be of limited help.
Like its Brian Clemens / Terry Nation-scripted British forerunner, WHEN DARKNESS FALLS has a fabulously expansive, beautiful and intimidating backdrop: to quote one character, 16000 square miles of it. It’s a spectacular location that adds considerable production value to an otherwise low-budget, small-scale thriller, but excessive drone footage of the landscapes soon begins to grate, padding a film that’s already significantly over long due to contrived intervals, including a protracted nightmare sequence.
O’Hara, last seen in Victor Blaho’s MEMORIES OF ANOTHER, is as appealing as the imperilled Andrea and Michaela Longden – fun in EATING MISS CAMPBELL and HOW TO KILL MONSTERS – is a heroine worth rooting for. Alas, the antagonist(s) are laughable rather than truly threatening. Still, there’s the occasional chuckle (“Two pints of your cheapest” / “English…typical”), and it pulls off a couple of surprising plot twists via a bonkers final act, with things truly livening up once the pitchforks and shotguns come out.
Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans