Missing: 1 Creature

by | Oct 7, 2022 | Entertainment

An Edmonton local, Berkley Brady, paints a formulaic story of trauma and horror at the 2022 Edmonton International Film Fest (EIFF) with her debut feature film, “Dark Nature”. Joy (Hannah Anderson) suffers from traumatic flashbacks after being assaulted and tormented by her ex-boyfriend Derek (Daniel Arnold). When her best friend Carmen (Madison Walsh) attempts to convince her to join her on a wilderness therapy retreat, Joy is skeptical but grudgingly goes along. They are joined by PTSD-stricken army veteran Shaina (Roseanne Supernault), Tara (Helen Belay), and Dr. Dunnley (Kyra Harper), a therapist with unusual ways of getting through to her patients. The five women set off into the stunningly beautiful Rocky Mountains unprepared for the horrors they will uncover. Slasher-esque POV shots follow the women on their journey, making it obvious something awaits them in the dark woods.

The pacing of the first act is very well done and takes us on a gripping narrative journey of abuse and domestic horrors. The sense of dread and emptiness creates a claustrophobic feeling, and this continues to be felt even when we shift to the wide-open setting of the mountains. This sense of claustrophobia makes the characters seem even smaller and more damaged than they already are, setting them up to be the perfect cliché horror film victims. When four traumatized women are sent out into a scary forest and the audience knows it’s a horror movie, surely nothing could go wrong. Right? Unfortunately for the audience, it’s not just the characters that are going to have everything turn bad.

By the time the third act rolls around the story has seemingly lost its own plot. The climax of the film never reaches a satisfying peak and it’s clear the low budget held the crew back both visually and creatively. Conversations and decisions are started and made just to lead nowhere and have the audience asking, why? Despite having some decent practical makeup and choreography, the lack of any sort of interesting creature in this “creature feature” removes any interest I had in the horror elements earlier and in the end, the final sequences collapse in on themselves. If you manage to make it through the drawn-out cave moments and plotlines with several loose ends you’ll at least be rewarded with some bloody violence and the occasional forest scream.

After the screening, Brady came on stage for a Q&A session with EIFF attendees. While listening to her discuss the budget and the difficulties of shooting on location in Kananaskis, it was clear to me how passionate she was about filmmaking. Brady seems to care a lot about the story she was telling, and while it didn’t necessarily translate on-screen, her passion was motivating and I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next. All I can hope for is that she gets a far more interesting script to work with for her next project and can really show off her obvious talent and ambition.

On the highly esteemed nugget rating scale, I give “Dark Nature” two nuggets out of Five.

cover image from bloody-disgusting.com

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