Lovely, Dark, and Deep
Director: Teresa Sutherland
Starring: Georgina Campbell, Nick Blood, Wai Ching Ho, Maria de Sá, Edgar Morais
Teresa Sutherland, one of the writers on Netflix’s ace Midnight Mass, takes the director's chair for the first time with Lovely, Dark and Deep, a horror mystery flick set in the vast wilderness of a North American national park. Having read many theories on unexplained disappearances in national parks, Sutherland decided to provide her own theory behind the strange but seemingly true stats, though maybe the real-life disappearances aren’t quite as out there as this.
"It’s a methodical film, one that builds up to its moments of terror but I never felt any sense of throttling atmosphere or impending doom."
New park ranger Lennon (Campbell) is assigned to a post previously held by a ranger who, you guessed it, disappeared during service. That said, she has been coveting this specific post for a long time as it covers the area where her younger sister disappeared years prior, and she is dead set on finding her long-lost siblings. Whilst the other rangers know of Lennon's past and actively try to warn her that the woods are not as they seem, Lennon presses ahead anyway and soon finds out that these woods really aren't what they seem.
Lovely, Dark, and Deep dabbles outside of the horror genre throughout, sprinkling vibes of mystery, drama, and thriller into its mix in order to create something that sits outside of the conventional. Sutherland and DoP Rui Poças work together to create some fantastic-looking shots using a variety of techniques in order to capture the feel of what the story is saying, whilst at the same time highlighting just how huge the area Lennon occupies really is. Despite this, the film lacked real urgency or prolonged tension, though there are a few gnarly scenes that will satisfy those with blood lust. It’s a methodical film, one that builds up to its moments of terror but I never felt any sense of throttling atmosphere or impending doom - it’s not a tame film, but the location itself proved scarier than the intended jolts (though I am aware the idea was to ensure the setting was as unsettling as possible). The mystery also is decent, the pendulum swing of whether the events of the film were genuine or a byproduct of Lennon’s traumas provided some interesting exchanges I didn’t find myself completely enthralled by it - especially by the time the third act had revealed the true meanings of what was occurring.
Barbarian star Georgina Campbell leads the film well giving a strong performance that further highlights her burgeoning talents. Her character is, whilst striving to find her sister and to stay alive, processing all manners of grief and anxieties and Campbell captures these efficiently and provides an affable lead.
There’s plenty here to suggest that Sutherland will continue on and be a great director. As mentioned, the film looks very good and it's led by a strong performance, and, whilst I may not have been hooked, it's well-written and carries some nasty moments - it just didn’t carry enough momentum or consistency for me. Whilst overall a solid effort, Lovely, Dark, and Deep starts strongly, but like the hikers in its woods, it eventually loses its way.
July 24th 2023