In the decade since the coming-of-age vampire drama “Let the Right One In” became an international hit, high-minded young horror filmmakers have produced a steady stream of arty genre pictures, combining the fantastical and the realistic. Writer-director Justin P. Lange’s allegorical zombie story “The Dark” is one of the better examples, though its sluggish pace can test one’s patience.
Expanding on an earlier short film, “The Dark” stars the talented Nadia Alexander as Mina, a flesh-eating monster who lives in the woods. Toby Nichols plays Alex, a blinded kidnap victim hiding in the car of Mina’s latest prey.
The two bond over pain suffered at the hands of adults — seen in disturbingly explicit flashbacks in Mina’s case, and merely implied in Alex’s. The more time they spend together, the more Mina reverts to human … though circumstances demand she still murder the occasional interloper.
Lange keeps the dialogue, music and lighting to a minimum, relying instead on visual storytelling, excellent makeup effects and the expressive faces of his two leads. That’d be more than sufficient, if the movie had more plot to fill those long, quiet, and at times fairly tedious scenes.
Mostly though, Lange has learned the right lessons from “Let the Right One In.” When “The Dark” clicks (which is often), it’s a moving and poetic tale about how neglect and abuse can turn people into freaky beasts, and how love can bring them back.
Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Playing: Available Friday on VOD