Title: Out of the Dark
Director: Lluís Quílez
Starring: Scott Speedman, Julia Stiles, Stephen Rea and Pixie Davies
People’s relentlessly strong determination to never give up hope on realizing their dreams can positively help them achieve the initial superficial steps to their overall goals. But when they delve further into their aspirations, they begin to realize that the way they contend with important moral dilemmas can harrowingly impact all aspects of their lives. That’s certainly the case with the new chilling supernatural thriller, ‘Out of the Dark,’ which marks Lluís Quílez’s feature film directorial debut, and is currently available on VOD and is set to open in theaters on Friday. The movie commendably strives to showcase how people’s decisions impact not only their own personal legacies and families, but also influences their overall community.
‘Out of the Dark’ follows Sarah Harriman (Julia Stiles) and her husband, Paul (Scott Speedman), as they leave their comfortable London lifestyle to move to Santa Clara, Colombia with their young daughter, Hannah (Pixie Davies). Sarah has agreed to begin running the Harriman paper company’s South American plant when her father, Jordan (Stephen Rea), retires. While Paul still feels as though his father-in-law doesn’t approve of him and his lifestyle choices, Sarah’s husband is content to work at home as a children’s book illustrator, so that he could care for their only child.
Even though the couple and their daughter begin to settle into their new lavish home, which once served as the paper company’s medical clinic, Jordan fails to inform them that a devastating tragedy that involved the area’s children occurred on their new land. But as Hannah begins to become curious about her new surroundings, she sets out to explore the house and its adjacent property, against the warnings of her parents and new nanny, Catalina (Vanesa Tamayo). In the process of learning more about their new environment, Sarah, Paul and Hannah begin to see and experience unexplainable phenomenon. As Catalina desperately tries to warn the couple about the house’s history and potential danger to their family, the spouses refuse to believe they’re in any real peril, until that danger reveals its personal vendetta against them.
As a first-time feature film director, Quílez daringly strived to incorporate provocative social issues into an exhilarating supernatural horror thriller. He honorably set out to showcase how Jordan’s negligence toward the community during the two decades he operated the Harriman paper company influenced the terrifying hauntings his daughter’s family begin experiencing in their new home. The filmmaker also notably crafted the lead female protagonist to be completely driven to take control over her father’s legacy in the paper industry after his retirement, so much so that she was willing to uproot her family and move to a completely different society, and initially downplay the looming danger to her child, husband and herself.
Building a believability that Sarah and her family’s new home is haunted by the ghosts of the children who were dauntingly killed in the area, due in part because of the lasting negative social effects Jordan’s company has on the environment, was an admirable approach to showcase how the past will come back to haunt people in many different forms. The director also commendably strived to build the growing tension between Sarah and her father, particularly over their disagreements over how to best control their business, in a very subtle way. Their strained relationship was meant to emphasize the disconnect the Harrimans felt from not only the spiritual and legal beliefs of their new culture, but also Jordan’s ideals, particularly his disappointing reluctance to never fully grasp the consequences of his actions. Unfortunately, even though Quílez worked with the writers of ‘Out of the Dark,’ including Javier Gullón, David Pastor and Àlex Pastor, to show how Jordan’s sins will undoubtedly come back to haunt his family, the slow and tedious evolution of their relationships and the history of the paper mill made the story disappointedly underdeveloped and dreary.
While ‘Out of the Dark’ regrettably failed to fully explore the consequences that social decisions have on a community, the enticing locations featured in the thriller helped infuse the story with an eerie sense of unease as Sarah and Paul desperately tried to uncover the reasoning behind the increasingly intense disturbances that are happening to their family. Innovative production designer Iñigo Navarro, who previously worked in the art department for such diverse and distinct films as ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’ and ‘Knight and Day,’ enticingly crafted distinct locations that alluringly emphasized the characters’ emotions and inspirations throughout the supernatural thriller.
To showcase Sarah’s intellect and intense drive to succeed in business, for example, Navarro intriguingly emphasized the serious and somber feeling of the building that served as the headquarters for the Harriman paper company. With almost no mementos of her husband or daughter in her tidy, machine-filled office for the firm, which thrives more on financial success than community involvement, the production designer smartly stressed Sarah’s commitment to sacrifice her own personal comfort when it was needed to succeed in her career. While Navarro enthrallingly highlighted Sarah’s unrelenting drive for achievement in her career through her business-oriented office, he also rivetingly designed an alluring setup for the Harrimans’ fascinating new home. From the lavish oversized bedrooms that were filled with luxurious furniture, to the extravagant appliances in the kitchen where Sarah, Paul and Hannah ate together, and the captivating backyard and forest surrounding the house, the couple’s charming surroundings prove how determined they are to provide a thriving life for their daughter.
‘Out of the Dark’ had the promising potential to be a visually and emotionally terrifying supernatural thriller that would not only explores the distressing haunting of a thriving family that’s determined to find success under any circumstance, but also contend with such important social issues like how their company’s decisions have been impacting the local community. But despite the memorable visuals that powerfully emphasized the characters’ personalities and motivations, notably through Navarro’s intriguing production design, Quílez overall unfortunately crafted a dreary evolution of the characters’ relationships and history of the paper company. With gripping characters, riveting locations and an enthralling story that utilized eerie ghosts that plausibly fueled an important social message, the first-time feature filmmaker had the potential to make a morally reflective and terrifying movie. But the story’s overall slow pacing unfortunately made the film a forgettable and unfrightening exploration into how a person’s past mistakes could not only damage their personal relationships, but also the overall morale of their entire community.
Written by: Karen Benardello