REVIEW: Coming Home In The Dark (2021)

dir. James Ashcroft.

Teacher Alan “Hoaggie” Hoaganraada (Erik Thomson) is on a wholesome family road-trip in the remote countryside with wife Jill (Miriama McDowell) and their sons Maika and Jordan (Billy and Frankie Paratene) when they’re accosted and violently attacked by two strangers. It falls to Hoaggie to figure out what connection he has with these men, and how to escape their aggravated and unpredictable clutches. 

Based on a short story of the same name by Owen Marshall, director Ashcroft’s debut is a slice of tense, edgy Kiwi genre. Horror from New Zealand is usually gritty and impeccably made with highly relatable characters, and Coming Home In The Dark is no exception: a shocking yet heart-aching demonstration of the destruction institutionalised abuse causes, through years and even generations. The exceptional screenwriting and character development keeps audience alliances jump between protagonists and antagonists, leaving viewers questioning their own moral standing. The characters of Mandrake and Tubs, played by Daniel Gillies and Matthias Luafutu, initially seem cold and devoid of all empathy, committing some of the most heinous acts, yet as the plot develops their humanity and despair begins to show. 

Similarly the main character of Hoaggie is unlikeable, adding further levels of realism. Despite his determination we find his plight – minus the involvement of his wife and children – to be almost justified. The finale and closing scene brings this underlying theme to a crescendo and represents the emotional trauma of all involved.

Coming Home In The Dark is a horrifying and distressing tragedy, a brutal gut-wrench symbolising all of those who have fallen victim to institutions and how, when someone decides to turn the other cheek, they are in fact siding with the abuser. 


Ygraine Hackett-Cantabrana

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