‘Coming Home In The Dark’ Review – Darkly nihilistic and unrelenting

Coming Home in the Dark (2021)

Directed By: James Ashcroft

Starring: Daniel Gillies, Erik Thompson, Miriama McDowell, Matthias Luafutu

Plot Summary: A family’s idyllic outing at an isolated coastline descends into terror when high school teacher Alan ‘Hoaggie’ Hoaganraad, his wife Jill, and stepsons Maika and Jordon unexpectedly come across a pair of murderous drifters – the enigmatic psychopath Mandrake and his hulking man-child accomplice Tubs – who thrust them into a nightmare road trip. At first, the family’s terror seems to be born of a random encounter with two sociopaths, but as the night drags on, Hoaggie and Jill realize that this nightmare was set in motion 20 years earlier.

James Ashcroft pulls zero punches with his feature film debut, Coming Home in the Dark (2021). I will say from the outset, if you are easily shocked or disturbed, especially with films dealing with children, you will most likely find this a grueling ordeal. From the first minutes of the movie, Ashcroft and cinematographer Matt Henley (this being his first feature film gig as DP) craft a movie that is as beautiful looking as it is grim, dark and isolating.

Coming Home In The Dark review

Coming Home is well paced, and the writing provides enough going on to keep me wholly engaged, especially when a mystery element is presented. Not to mention the movie is a thriller that can genuinely make them claim to be as tense as it is spellbinding. Ashcroft cleverly doesn’t reveal all his cards at once and I think it is one of the film’s biggest strengths.

Of course, the cast takes the well-constructed premise and truly breathes frightening life into it. Daniel Gilles plays Mandrake, and I was impressed by how the actor could take his character so far without going into ham-territory. In fact, I think Gilles both revels in the wickedness whilst masterfully underplaying Mandrake. Playing his “side-kick” is Matthias Luafutu. In some ways, I think Luafutu has the harder part as he has to convey his feelings and shape his performance with very little dialogue. Like Gilles, Luafutu finds a nice middle ground that complements Mandrake. Television mainstay Erik Thompson also does a fantastic job. He and the equally great Miriama McDowell carry the bulk of the films emotional weight successfully. The film also has a great supporting cast including Frankie Paratene and Billy Paratene.

Coming Home In The Dark review

If I had to complain, it would be that some of the character motivations are, shall we say sketchy. It’s hard to go into depth with this aspect as it would lead to major spoilers. In broad strokes, I would say that a character makes a turn that doesn’t feel properly set up. There seems to have been moments in the story to naturally build to this conclusion, but sadly, they weren’t taken.

Darkly nihilistic and unrelenting, Coming Home in the Dark is Wolf Creek meets Funny Games.

Coming Home In The Dark review

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