REVIEW: Dark Place (2019) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition

dir. Kodie Bedford, Liam Phillips, Robert Braslin, Perun Bonser & Bjorn Stewart.

Anthology films tend to hit and miss, but this collection – focusing on the post-colonial experiences of Aboriginal Australians – is all killer, no filler. Unified under a single thematic banner the stories branch off into numerous sub-genres, from revenger to supernatural and – in one memorable segment – an Evil Dead-esque gonzo-comedy. Add to this the focus on female-centric stories and an astonishing directorial confidence across the board, and the result is one of thrilling diversity.

The opener follows the eponymous Scout, who is kidnapped by traffickers and sold into sex slavery though may be stronger than she – or they – believe. Foe focuses on a woman struggling with family breakdown and sleep walking, who might be partaking in dangerous activities on her night-time excursions. Vale Light sees a young mum and daughter move in next to a creepy neighbour with an unsettling interest in the young girl. The Shore – almost wordlessly and shot in stunning black and white – tells of a teenager, her father and something in the water. And closer Killer Native plays it broad, a joyfully irreverent period piece about idiot colonisers coming up against an outback monster of their own making.

Motherhood, sexual violence, growing pains, race. Never didactic or preachy, Dark Place shines a light on all of these, painting with such artistry and deft control so as to leave the jaw ajar and the viewer wondering where these voices have been until now. It’s no secret that horror is a genre tooled up for social commentary, but whilst some take this as a licence to lay out heavy handed manifestos here there is a lightness of touch, and the messages land all the more powerfully for it.

An assured, fantastic piece of work. Watch out for these film-makers: they’re coming to get you, and you’re going to love it.

Tim Coleman

DARK PLACE has its UK Premiere at FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition on 29th August 2020.

Published by Tim Coleman

Film critic. Screenwriter. Academic.

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