Remember when you were young? Summer holidays seemed like a magical time for fun and frolicking. Endless summer days where spent playing, hanging out with friends and generally doing what you wanted until the evil spectre of school reared its fetid head and the joy was over.
There was always a blip in those blissful times however, when your family forced you to go on holiday with them. And not a fun international flight of fancy either, a boring British holiday. This was usually somewhere dreary and rainy where the days dragged, your siblings annoyed the hell out of you, your parents forced fun on you like a Nazi entertainment coordinator in a death camp and you spent every hour praying for it all to be over.
Dark Nature, a Scottish set horror thriller simultaneously follows that enforced UK holiday hell in its plot line while unintentionally recreating that childhood feeling of utter boredom and abject misery in its viewers, they too will be desperate for it to end – about 15 minutes in.
Set in the Scottish highlands a family of stereotypes (including ‘uptight mother’ woman, ‘annoying but try hard boyfriend’ man, ‘slutty rebellious daughter’ girl and ‘innocent unwitting brother’ boy) head to their grandmother’s house for one of those horrible holidays I was writing about earlier.
Luckily, or unluckily (depending on how you want to see it) the bunch of stereotypes that are already at grandma’s house are being brutally murdered and the family is forced to face this seemingly pointless peril. Well it beats going on long walks and playing Monopoly every night doesn’t it.
Packed with long shots of landscapes along with arty angles, dream sequences and sped up and slowed down scenes it’s obvious that director Marc de Launay wants Dark Nature to be an art house horror. But all these effects actually do is highlight how slow, badly paced and boring the film is and how ponderous and pointless the plot is.
The film looks fine for its low budget and the locations are lovely. However the script and characters are nowhere near up to par for even the lowest budget slasher movies, with some awful clichéd characters including a creepy gamekeeper, heavily accented tarot reader and unhinged scientist (and I bet you can’t guess which of these 3 is the killer!)
In an attempt to innovate, the bug collecting, environment obsessed scientist seemingly proposes a theory that we are destroying the earth and that it will fight back hinting, like the film’s title, at an M. Night Shyamalan style hidden reason for the madness. Nature is compelling the killer, rather than him doing it simply because he got just as bored as we did watching.
This idea, already explored in the awful The Happening is a flimsy twist at best and pretentiously preachy at worst. But ultimately the concept is never properly explored and the character proposing it, rather than being interesting, just appears as some sort of enviro-mentalist.
Dark Nature simply and sadly does not work on any level as a horror thriller, seeing that it is both un-thrilling and not nearly horrible or scary enough. And unlike those family holidays which when thought about in adult life adopt a nostalgic glow of happiness and lost childhood, the only good thing looking back on Dark Nature is that I will never have to watch it again.