In director James Ashcroft’s horror-thriller, Coming Home in the Dark, a New Zealand family take a road trip out to the countryside. Once they arrive at their destination, a picturesque place of natural beauty, they grab their bags, leave their car, and head out on a hike.

After a short while, the foursome stop for a picnic. As they enter into conversation and enjoy lunch together, they are approached by two strangers.

One of the strangers pulls out a gun, and begins to take the family’s possessions; but in a matter of moments, the situation escalates beyond armed robbery. What follows is something far more disastrous, resulting in a nightmare scenario for all involved.  

Based on a short-story of the same name, Coming Home in the Dark stars Erik Thomson, Miriama McDowell, Daniel Gillies, and Matthias Luafutu. The movie is available to watch on Netflix from today, and if you’re a fan of suspense-filled thrillers, which has shades of The Hitcher (1986) and Wolf Creek (2005) about it, then Coming Home in the Dark is a movie you will most certainly want to take a look at.  

Image: ©Light in the Dark Productions/MPI Media Group
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One of the strengths of Coming Home in the Dark is the way in which it moves. The film sets out its premise very quickly, ensuring there is no lengthy or unnecessary build up, and in doing this it gets into the main thrust of the story within minutes.

Very early on, it is also made clear this is a film that won’t pull any punches, and it finds a very direct, and very brutal way to inject tension into the narrative. It then builds up suspense, using fairly simple tactics, but ones which work incredibly well.

The result is a gripping narrative, which flows with ease. It is twisted, compelling, and very dark.

Image: ©Light in the Dark Productions/MPI Media Group
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The movie’s next strength lies in its characters. The cast in this film is kept to a bare minimum, but all the key players do exactly what they need to, fulfilling important roles in the story.  

Chief amongst the characters is Mandrake – as played by Daniel Gillies – one of the strangers who approaches the family. Mandrake is a sadistic man, who makes no bones about speaking his mind, acting on his impulses, and dishing out brutality.

Mandrake is a deadly force to be reckoned with, but he is also a character who becomes intrinsic to the events of the film. He is a very important figure throughout the movie, and one who creates conflict while also helping to unravel many of the finer details of the story.

Image: ©Light in the Dark Productions/MPI Media Group
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The film’s final strength can be found in its visual aesthetic. This movie is cold, grim, and gritty, yet at the same time beautiful to look at.

The cinematography is exquisite, and so too is the lighting and use of colour. The movie is expertly shot and edited, with a great sense of space and framing, and every moment has been carefully considered and composed.

What surprised me most about this movie is that this is director James Ashcroft’s first feature film. Ashcroft has previously directed a collection of shorts, as well as one episode of television, but Coming Home in the Dark is his debut picture.

This film doesn’t just show potential, it demonstrates a keen eye, an attention to detail, and a clear understanding of how to unravel a simple story. This is a solid debut and I look forward to seeing what comes next, especially if he is given a bigger budget.

Image: ©Light in the Dark Productions/MPI Media Group
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If you are looking for something a little sinister, something with a black heart, and something to hold your attention for around 90-minutes, then Coming Home in the Dark is a movie for you. The film sets out its intentions early doors, draws out its story at a good pace, and builds to a thought-provoking conclusion, which opens up a discussion about punishment and responsibility.

As with all good thrillers, it proves there is a little more to the tale than there first appears, with plenty of meat on the bone in the story department. This is good stuff; I liked it a lot, and I believe it will play incredibly well during these dark, chilly nights.

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