I’ve just seen the first really good scary movie of 2024. It’s called Out of Darkness and it’s set 45,000 years ago, in a prehistoric age when the land was “old and dark,” as one of the characters intones over a fire.
Let me just say that I love when this happens, when a cut-above genre movie emerges out of the dreck-y flotsam of the January/February movie season and sets the bar for the rest of the year. Last year it was M3GAN. In 2022 it was X (though we had to wait till March). In 2021, Saint Maud. The all-time example is Get Out in 2017—a still unmatched early-year surprise (that should have won best picture, dammit).
Out of Darkness, which is showing in limited theaters, is a survival tale: Six Paleolithic characters against a dark force hunting them when the sun goes down. And like any good late-night film, it takes no time to get moving, though let me first set a few things straight. This debut feature from the Scottish director Andrew Cumming is indeed set during the Stone Age, and so the characters speak an (invented) language, one devised with the help of an academic advisor and translated via subtitles. Are you down for 90 minutes of gibberish…or “Tola” (as it’s identified in the press notes, a mix of Arabic and Basque and Sanskrit)? I was first amused, and then quickly impressed with the actors’ fluency and commitment. Another thing: the cast—a highly athletic crew of mostly UK newcomers—do wear furs and tote spears, but it took me a moment to buy they were Paleolithic given how relatively kempt and attractive they all are.
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