Andres Rovira’s directorial debut, Between the Darkness, is a quirky, unusual fright fest weaves the real and imagined together into a genuinely unusual, if uneven, foray into psychological horror.
Released, intentionally or not, on HP Lovecraft’s birthday, Between the Darkness relies on the perennial horror conceit that off-the-beaten road religions are usually nothing but trouble. That was certainly true in Lovecraft’s classic Cthulhu mythos stories, not to mention every seventies TV movie of the week where a big city family moved to a rural farming community where pagan fertility cults practiced human sacrifice at their church socials. In Between the Darkness, the very busy Lew Temple (“The Walking Dead,” Halloween , Unstoppable, The Lone Ranger, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) plays Roy, a widowed father who has taken his daughter and son to a remote area for a vacation on the anniversary of his eldest daughter’s death. The family retreat soon begins to appear threatening, and clearly disaster is looming.
The troublemaking off-the-beaten path religion in question here is rooted in classic Greek mythology, which doesn’t sound too bad unless the mythical monsters are as real too. Which, needless to say, they are. Give me that old time religion, indeed.
Like Lovecraft, Rovira is clearly a believer in the slow burn, and Between the Darkness does not sprint off the starting block. Flashbacks slowly fill the audience in on the relationships between the deceased mother and daughter and the surviving children, Sprout (Nicole Moorea Sherman) and Percy (Tate Birchmore). Roy, at first, appears to be simply an eccentric, aging hippie who prays to pagan gods. His tendency to mix his children’s playtime with religious ritual becomes increasingly ominous, and his behavior becomes increasingly erratic.
Sprout has visions of a gorgon-like creature which terrify her, and at the same time, is attempting to adjust to her own nascent sexuality, which is perhaps almost as frightening. Certainly her father does not appear emotionally well-equipped to deal with it. The arrival of an attractive park ranger (Danielle Harris), a single mom with a young son (Max Woodhouse) dangles the prospect of romance for Roy, which he doesn’t seem to be at all ready for.
Rovira, who wrote the somewhat rambling screenplay, gets solid performances from his cast, but manages more atmosphere than genuine suspense. The production values do have some rough edges, but Rovira and his director of photography, Madeline Kate Kann, have an undeniable vision of a primordial landscape. Between the Darkness, largely squanders a promising premise, but still manages some mild thrills along the way.
DarkCoast will release Between the Darkness onto digital streaming platforms August 20th (Amazon, iTunes, inDemand, DIRECTV, Vudu, FANDANGO, Vimeo on Demand, AT&T, Google Play, Sling/Dish).