There’s something infuriating about a film that should be better than it is. TriCoast Entertainment’s Between The Darkness (Come, Said The Night) is one of them. The premise is mix of elements worthy of where thriller and horror are today, but with no clear direction or boldness, it falls apart. At a forest sanctuary, Sprout (Nicole Sherman), her brother Percy (Tate Birchmore), and their father Roy (Lew Temple) return to honor their late mother and sister. Instead of finding solace, the Sprout is plagued by night terrors and a mythological terror in the forest.
Writer and director Andres Rovira‘s feature film debut begins with gentle melancholy and cool images and feelings as a small family comes home to pay their respects to lost a mother and wife; and daughter and sister. There’s an overwhelming sincerity to their little ceremony honoring their lost loved ones. It’s intimate. Soothing. It feels intrusive to be watching. It may be prayers to a host of gods left behind centuries ago, but it’s evident this faith is what’s holding the family together. Of course, until it’s what splits them apart.
The Brady’s isolated bohemian lifestyle originates from their belief in Greek gods, chief among them is Harpocrates, the god of silence and secrets. Roy (who Lew Temple plays like a parody of Matthew McConaughey in a Lincoln commercial, right down to the accent) teaches his children stories about the gods and monsters, peppering in cautionary tales about not letting a dark force known as “The Otherness” into their lives. When Sprout begins being haunted by Medusa, along with images of her sister Magda, Roy immediately begins to fear for her.
Mythology comes alive when Sprout begins hunting the gorgon as her patron goddess Athena once did alongside Perseus. The bulk of the story rotates around her excursions into the forest looking for its lair. As Sprout, Sherman’s does a solid job conveying a mess of emotions, bouncing from bravery to fear whilst navigating puberty, her first crush on a boy, and the mythological monster stalking her. This is her story, but the script fumbles awkwardly through these parts as if embarrassed to tell this part of the story.
Meanwhile, the young kid Birchmore as Percy inexplicably has oven mits strapped to his hands. He has nothing to say or add other than being another unused symbol of classic literature. But the children’s father Roy is decidedly the weirdest of dudes. When not leering around corners at his children, he dings a triangle and pounds on a bongo. He’s out there howling at the moon or stripping down and mooning the audience. It was enough to make me nostalgic for McConaughey’s downright insane Serenity performance earlier this
Putting whatever Roy is smoking aside, the source of the movie’s intrigue comes from the mythical creature’s emergence from the woods. Vast swaths of Greek legends are dangled in front of the audience, but unless you bring your own knowledge of gods and monsters to the tale, most of it will fly over your head. There are fleeting glimpses of the gorgon preying on the family at night or in the pages of a history book. But it’s literally only a passing shadow. Of course, it becomes clear there are darker forces in the forests than a gorgon. When this real monster comes into focus, everything else in the story goes hazy.
Throughout, Rovira hits on ideas worth exploring. A family isolated from society. How sincerely held religious beliefs can inflict pain. But the story’s overarching theme, the repression and scapegoating of women because of their sexuality, is one Rovira consistently returns to, only to comically refuse to engage with it beyond some vague illusions. Every film-making choice points toward this larger message, right down to Sprout’s real name and patron god. Rovira is just too bashful to tackle it head on. We’re left with an indiscernible tirade as our answer rather than something meaningful to what we’ve seen Sprout undergo.
If the story is a high-wire act, Rovira is able to balance the movie all the way out to the middle. The premise is solid. The concept intriguing. However, those two things alone can not carry it the rest of the way. Everything finally collapses in the climatic moments of the movie. Every minute you continue to watch only tarnishes the pieces of the film which worked.
You can feel Between The Darkness (Come, Said The Night) vying for a place among the small budget horror flicks prompting huge discussions about what horror can do emotionally and intellectually. It’s premise and themes belong there. However, the emotional authenticity Rovira has brought to his short films is nowhere to be found past the film’s first fifteen minutes. The rest of the way feels like a half-hearted effort to shortcut its way to a broader conversation.
1.5 ticket stubs out of 5
Between The Darkness (Come, Said The Night) is now available on digital streaming platforms – Amazon, iTunes, inDemand, DIRECTV, Vudu, FANDANGO, Vimeo on Demand, AT&T, Google Play, and Sling/Dish.
Did you see Between The Darkness (Come, Said The Night)? If so, let us know what you thought in the comments! But remember, we’re all friends here, so keep the conversation civil.