I wanted to like Dark Nature, far more than I did. From writer/director Berkley Brady, this is a film with a lot of great ideas but despite a fantastic first act, something doesn’t quite work. Featuring an all-female main cast with some absolutely striking imagery of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, as the story gets going, a lot of what makes the movie special gets lost.
Dark Nature has one of the strongest opening acts I have seen in a long time. Opening on a shockingly disturbing depiction of domestic abuse with Joy (Hannah Emily Anderson) struggling to survive an incident with now ex Derek (Daniel Arnold). With some striking moments that will be triggering for many, Joy is now dealing with the trauma months later. But even as she is struggling to rise above the incident, her best friend Carmen (Madison Walsh) is looking to push her to finally move past things.
This push comes in the form of a therapeutic nature retreat led by Dr. Dunley (Kyra Harper) sees her and a group of women travel into the woods. This is a chance for Joy to finally grow and regain control of her life and be more than her trauma. This is also a last ditch effort to try and save the friendship that is hanging on by a thread due to the frustration and helplessness Carmen feels with Joy constantly going back to the cause of so much fear.
“Dark Nature brings some good concepts to the table, and the setting is a sight to behold, but it simply fails to hit the landing.”
As the journey gets underway, the exploration of trauma and PTSD is at the forefront, giving a glimpse of what every woman in the retreat has gone through, and despite what may appear on the surface, how much healing is left to do. There is a lot of time spent in the film making it unclear if Joy is witnessing the many strange things in the woods, or if her trauma is causing her to lose her grip on reality.
The setting makes for some stunning shots that show the beauty and scope of the Canadian wilderness. Cinematographer Jaryl Lim uses the setting to full effect, building a strange sense of tension and fear surrounding the journey. From the aerial shots of the wilderness, to the many shots of the caves and rock faces, as stunning as the setting may be, there is potential danger around every corner.
The biggest issue with Dark Nature is the final third, where the film loses much of the focus on the pain and mystery to be more a creature feature. While I have seen this done much worse in other films, the promise at play early on seems to be lost in exchange for some fast-paced violence and horror that forgets what made the story so compelling to begin with.
Dark Nature brings some good concepts to the table, and the setting is a sight to behold, but it simply fails to hit the landing. There are plenty of good creature features, and many do more to build on tension that feels natural to the story, unfortunately Dark Nature loses that secret sauce as it rushes to wrap things up. While still worthy of a watch, it left me wanting more as the movie faded to black.