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DARK NATURE
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Reviewed by: Pat Torfe

Directed by: Marc de Launay

Starring:
Vanya Eadie
Imogen Toner
Niall G. Fulton
James Bryce

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
At a remote Scottish lakeside home, a woman is brutally murdered by her husband, after which he calmly goes about his business tidying up the scene. Unfortunately for him, another unseen intruder stabs him. Shortly afterwards, a vacationing family headed up by a woman named Jane arrive at the same house, wondering where her mother went. As it turns out, the murdered woman was Jane's mother, and the entire family was going to stay at the lakeside house for vacation. Seems Mother Nature isn't too thrilled with how Man has been treating it, and has decided to play mind games.

Is it good movie?
Another Troma movie? Well, not quite. Lloyd Kaufman just snagged this for a release, really. So fortunately (or unfortunately), there's no real trace of the signature Troma humour or style. Still, one wonders why Kaufman saw fit to snag this film for release under the Troma name. Actually, from the sounds of things, you should wonder if DARK NATURE is just Mario Bava's TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE set against a Scottish backdrop with a Man vs. Nature bit thrown in. Well, there's more to it than that, but it takes some 'splaining.

Hats off to director Marc de Launay for the look of the film. Clearly, Bava wasn't the only inspiration, as there's a strong sense of atmosphere here, as well as being beautifully shot (think Fulci, without the extreme close-ups involving eyes). It's almost always a good idea to take full advantage of your shooting location, and coastal Scotland's not a bad choice in the least. Despite the indie nature, the camerawork is nicely done, as the visuals communicate themes and meaning just as well as the dialogue.

Speaking of dialogue (no pun intended), the acting is consistent across the board. Standing out is Niall Greig Fulton, who plays the gloomy handyman McKenzie. Despite having a pithy amount of dialogue, Fulton presents a menacing character that at first seems harmless but does an about-face in a hurry. Props to Vanya Eadie and Imogen Toner for presenting a mother/daughter combo that are constantly at odds with one another that seems genuine.

Unfortunately for the acting, the script isn't so kind. Despite the animosity towards each other throughout the film, we never see both actresses on the screen at the same time, interacting with the other. It creates a sort of disjointed feeling, as if you're watching a tennis match. It also doesn't help when you don't get much of a clear explanation/reason as to why they're pissed at each other. It gets worse when you have characters behaving irrationally and totally out of left field.

Perhaps the biggest strike against the film is its pacing and the confusion that follows it. It's nice that the film has a deliberate progression, but it ends up feeling longer than its 76-minute runtime. This progression morphs into something plodding along, with much of the character interaction feeling like it's there to pad the film out. Coupled with a script that doesn't explain everything, there's simply too much going on at once to have this slow pacing. The film can't decide whether it wants to be a slasher or an eco-horror film. It tries to do both but can't.

DARK NATURE, for all its gore, violence and atmosphere, doesn't satisfy. Had the script by Eddie Harrison been more fleshed out and given more explanation to what's going on, it would've made for a more entertaining move. But since the script didn't do that, the whole thing feels like a chore to sit through, and a frustrating and unsatisfied one at that. Sit through NATURE'S GRAVE (aka LONG WEEKEND) for something that get's nature's wrath right.

Video / Audio

Video: Presented in 1080p 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen, the transfer isn't what you'd expect from high definition standards, but for an indie film it's pretty good. Colour is great, with detail being okay. Noise creeps in at times (particularly in the blacks), and softness shows up as well. Not much in terms of an upgrade, as it's just okay.

Audio: The only track offered here is a Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 that, like the video, is a mixed bag. The dialogue can be hard to hear sometimes, but at least there's no distortion or hiss. It's well balanced, but again, the thing's just okay.

The Extras
First up is commentary by director Marc de Launay and screenwriter Eddie Harrison, who provide a good detail of information on the production and its history, as well as but also the intentions of the film and it's influences. Unfortunately, de Launay neglected to mention Bava as an inspiration, which irked me.

Following that is a 27-minute featurette entitled Behind the Scenes of Dark Nature. Composed of interviews with de Launay and star Vanya Eadie and behind the scenes footage, this thing feels rather minimalist and thrown together, with little context or substance.

Interview with star Vanya Eadie isn't much better, since it really seems like the unedited interview that was in the previous featurette. Eadie does provide some insight into how she developed the character, as well as some difficulties of the shoot, but again, it's not very in-depth.

Following that is a short film by Marc de Launay entitled The Last Noel. This eight minute Christmas-themed short pits Santa Claus against a doubting kid on Christmas Eve, who just happens to be packing a shotgun. Other than the commentary, this is probably the most fun to be had on the disc.

Finally, there's the film's trailer, as well as the 'Tromatic Extras' involving trailers for A NOCTURNE, BIG FOOT, SURF NAZIS MUST DIE and CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH.

Last Call
DARK NATURE is one of those films with potential, but is ultimately marred by something that causes the whole film to be a frustration. A fire-and-forget film, the commentary and short film are the only other bright spots in this so-so Blu-Ray by Troma. Really you guys, step up and deliver a disc that doesn't look like it was scraped together with pocket change.

ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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