Coming Home in the Dark (2021)

June 4th, Movie 5

Today’s June Swoon entry is a New Zealand psychological horror film entitled Coming Home in the Dark, which I found on Netflix. I do not remember where I had heard of this film or why I included it on my list for the June Swoon, but I am glad I did.

A family was out together on a camping trip when a pair of strangers came along and abducted them at gunpoint. They forced the, to go on a road trip with them, looking to bring out a terrible tragedy from the past.

This was a simple story of vengeance and cruelty, but it was filled with several unexpected and surprising shocks that I did not see coming. Daniel Gillies as Mandrake was menacing and terrifying, showing that you do not have to be screaming in order to create an anxiety among the audience. Mandrake was so full of rage and anger, but he kept it suppressed just beneath the surface of the character.

Erik Thomson, who played the father of the family, a schoolteacher, seemed to be the target of Mandrake’s venom and it became obvious that there was something in the past that led to this violence. At least, something in the head of Mandrake. The film does lean toward Mandrake as the damaged party here, but it never excuses the behavior or the violence from him. He is not shown as anything but a brutal killer, which despite any travesties in his past, is exactly what he was.

The performances are excellent throughout the film. Daniel Gillies takes the script to another level with his portrayal of Mandrake. And, though Erik Thomson was great, I found Miriama McDowell as his wife Jill matched him with every scene she was in. She brought such an anguish and loss to the role while still revealing the fierceness of a damaged fighter with her back to the wall.

The look of the film is sensational too. Mostly shot at night, the choreography and the imagery of the film built such a tense feeling in every scene. You are never sure what is going to be the end results of the night, but you are anxiously hoping for the best.

Coming Home in the Dark is a strong and anxiety-filled thriller that should not slip under your radar.

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