COMING HOME IN THE DARK. (2021) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

COMING HOME IN THE DARK. (2021) BASED ON THE 1995 SHORT STORY OF THE SAME NAME BY OWEN MARSHALL. DIRECTED BY JAMES ASHCROFT.
STARRING MIRIAMA MCDOWELL, ERIK THOMSON, DANIEL GILLIES AND MATTHIAS LUAFUTU.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This psychological thriller from New Zealand is well worth your time, I promise you. I was gripped by it the whole way through. It’s about a family of four, schoolteachers Jill and Alan and their two teenaged sons, Maika and Jordan. They drive out into the depths of the New Zealand countryside to get away from the rat-race for a few days.

I’m guessing the little holiday is the mum Jill’s idea, as she’s the one who’s gathering up all the phones and other devices and shoving them in the glove compartment so that the members of her little family can actually talk to each other for a change. It’s a common complaint nowadays.

Too many gadgets are killing the art of conversation. How many times have you gone out for dinner and sat beside a couple who spent the whole night on their phones while basically ignoring one another? Or seen a group of four or five friends walking down the road side by side, all bound for the one destination, but each glued to their phones? Or asked for directions from a person who pulled out their earphones with an eyeroll and exaggerated sigh because they’re so annoyed at being disturbed while listening to their music? Exactly. But this is a debate for another day. Don’t get me started, lol.

The family stop for a rest in the most isolated spot imaginable. This is where they are ambushed by two shotgun-wielding lowlifes who have been watching them from higher up in the hills. Tubs is quiet, thin and hungry-looking, and you can tell he’s had a hard life by his face. Mandrake is another kettle of fish, a horse of a different colour altogether.

He’s a complete effing psychopath, is what he is. He’s a smart arse who likes the sound of his own voice. He always has to be showing off how cool and tough he is, and he’s the dominant partner by far in this little crime duo. Poor Tubs has clearly been influenced by his big-mouthed lout of a so-called friend. There might be a chance for him in life if he could get out from under Mandrake’s domination of him. Or maybe it’s too late. Old habits die hard, after all.

Mandrake sports a bizarre hipster moustache and a long overcoat with big boots, he likes to taunt, tease and torment verbally as well as physically and, basically speaking, he should be locked away for the rest of his life for what he does to this little family. We can only imagine what crimes he’s committed prior to meeting Alan and Jill.

Alan is a mild-mannered, weak man who tends to let things happen around him. He’s immediately submissive to the gunmen for fear that, if they antagonise them, things could always get worse. He begs his much ballsier missus, Jill, a ferocious tigress of a mother to her two boys, not to provoke them. Alan’s policy is to keep his head down and hope that things somehow turn out for the best.

There’s a lot to be said for caution and the softly, softly approach, but, when Alan persists with it even after the two thugs commit an act of unimaginable violence and brutality, we might start to wonder what kind of a man is he exactly, and were there other times in his past when he might have stood by and let atrocities happen in front of his very eyes because the path of least resistance felt the safest…?

You can take it from me that there were times like that for Alan, and you can be sure too that Mandrake will wrench them out of him like some kind of mad dentist from hell armed with a rusty drill. It’s painful and shockingly violent to watch, and an agonised Jill in particular has to face up to the fact that, not only is her weak-willed husband not the man she thought he was when she married him, but it’s taken an abduction by a couple of murderous goons to bring the truth out, piece by troubled piece.

This is a top-notch horror film, with some fabulous scenery to enjoy in the beginning. The four leads, particularly Miriama McDowell as Jill, are super-successful at each playing one quarter of the mainly four-handed cast. The script is tight and believable (it COULD happen to you) and there’s a moral and a message in there too; sometimes people are what we as a society turn them in to. Make of that what you will, and enjoy the film.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: