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“Just stay calm,” the sheriff and his deputy tell the townspeople.
And they do.
They watched all the animals in town flee. They’ve noticed the moving shadows and noted the footprints.
Maybe they noticed their story’s color palette change from wintry blue and gray to shades of crimson.
And sure, they’re gathered in the town church, holding out against … something. But at least they’re CALM.
That’s a big shortcoming of “Dark Was the Night,” a low-budget horror thriller set in timber country. Nobody gets too worked up, few even dare to raise their voices.
All this talk of Indian myth, the devil, a forest creature disturbed by clear-cutting, all their pets vanishing? The people of Maiden Wood treat it as just another burden to bear. And if they’re not scared, why should we be?
Kevin Durand (“X-Men: Origins — Wolverine”) is the sheriff, mourning a dead child, estranged from his patient wife (Bianca Kajlich). Former child actor Lukas Haas is the deputy sheriff, a one-time New Yorker who sees divine purpose in their work when this unknown beast starts menacing folk. They were “put here to protect people,” he reasons.
Memo to small towns — when you cut corners and don’t paint “To protect and serve” on your police vehicles, peace officers are confused.
After a bloody prologue, when a lumberman sprays his blood all over the interior of his pickup’s windshield, “Dark Was the Night” settles in for a long, creepy slumber — more sleepy than creepy, truthfully.
The deputy flirts with the horse rancher’s hot daughter, the sheriff tries to settle the nerves of his remaining son (Ethan Khusidman), who flinches at every shadow.
Maybe everybody else should have, as well. A reasonable response to supernatural slaughter, to be sure.
But every actor underplays to the point of drowsy, and every conversation is in muted, low near-whispers.
And something is out there, in the woods. We don’t know it’s ridiculous until “the reveal,” and we don’t laugh at it until the coda. Which is even more ridiculous.
(At Town Center.)
| Roger Moore
Tribune News Service