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June 24, 2021

The Dark (2018) Movie Review

I’m kinda getting tired of taking a chance on an unknown movie and then liking it. I mean, this is Cinema Headcheese. I take pride in holding myself to a certain standard of crap and bitching about it.


As I wasn’t planning to review this particular film, I didn’t take copious notes. That will help this to be a more spoiler-free review. The film is also from 2018, so it’s still relatively new and probably not on a lot of people’s radars.

The Dark is about two teenagers who bond and heal in the wake of traumatic experiences. Mina, after being killed by her mother’s molesting boyfriend, wakes as a zombie in the woods near her home. She must kill and eat humans to “survive”. Several years later, she crosses paths with a wanted criminal who trespasses into her territory, and promptly kills him. While searching the man’s car for goods, she discovers Alex, a teenage boy the man had kidnapped then blinded through torture.

As Mina takes Alex in tow, trying to find him food, shelter, and help, the two create a strong bond of friendship, each a healing force for the other. Though in order to keep Alex safe, blood’s gonna get spilled.

I actually don’t want to say more than that. I don’t want to break down the film scene by scene, like I usually do. I will comment on a few aspects, of course. Despite there being a lot of division among reviewers across the internet, I don’t think anyone can deny this film throws an emotional punch. And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it ever since I watched it.

About 80% of the film is carried by two people: Nadia Alexander and Toby Nichols, who play Mina and Alex respectively. The subject matter, zombie aspect aside, is very heavy and these two bore the brunt of it well. Using the zombie trope to explore and discuss issues like molestation, rape, kidnapping, torture, brain washing, and murder through the eyes of the teens that experienced these horrors is something I haven’t seen before. At least, not with this strong emotional connection. Even Mina’s zombie isn’t typical. She’s not a brainless, shambling, cloudy-eyed automaton. Aside from the killing and eating people, she could be a “normal” teenage girl.

Toby did a fantastic job of playing a teen who’d obviously been so traumatized, he was reluctant to go with Mina even after she told him his kidnapper was dead. He lived in fear that the man would come back for him or find his family and kill them. When we first encounter Alex, he’s in soiled clothes with burn scars over his eyes. But we didn’t need to see him go through that hell. Toby showed us plenty through his acting in the film. Same for Mina. We do get some flashbacks to give us an idea how she got to this zombified state, but Nadia shows us plenty without us having to witness her personal trauma.

There is no soundtrack. There is one simplistic song, “Mina’s Theme”, that plays a couple times. Or the kids hum a soft tune once or twice. But I think the lack of music made this a much more powerful film. That in conjunction with the cinematography created such a bleak and unforgiving world these kids had to live in.

Most of the film is dark, lighting-wise, I mean. I don’t know if that was a director’s choice to show that we each have darkness to contend with inside and out, or that the world is a dark place, hence the title of the film. Darkness can be different for everyone, and from some of the character development in this movie, I’d say the teens weren’t the only ones who had suffered at the hands of something dark and terrible.

The one main thing I didn’t like was the pacing. It did drag a bit, and some scenes went on a little too long. But only checking my watch once or twice during a 90-minute film is fairly good, so it wasn’t as bad as others I’ve watched in the past.

I did try to read up on a bunch of reviews because the ending is a little…huh? And after discovering NO ONE had any answers or theories out there, I realized that the writer may have left the ending a little vague so each viewer could interpret in their own way. I can’t really say what I think the ending means because it would give too much away. But it did give me hope for Alex’s recovery, and for Mina’s, too.

Is this a supernatural tale? Sure. Is it a human story? Absolutely. What it means for you will be different than what it means for me. And stories that keep me thinking, long after they’re over, are some of the most beautiful stories out there.

It’s on Amazon Prime if you’d like to check it out for yourself.

4 hatchets (out of 5)

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