Lovely, Dark, and Deep, with its title lifted from Frost’s classic poem, threads an enigmatic storyline through the lush wilderness, taking audiences on a tantalizing journey of unsettling revelations. Set in a serene national park, the film imbues the deceptive calm of nature with an undertow of malevolent mysteries.
Central to the narrative of Lovely, Dark, and Deep is Lennon, the park ranger, played with exquisite vulnerability by Georgina Campbell. Her quest, partially driven by personal demons and hinted at traumas, takes her deeper into the wilderness and the complexities of her own psyche. As chilling visions and eerie occurrences unfold, the very fabric of reality blurs, pulling viewers into a vortex of dread and wonder.
The film is as much about Lennon’s internal struggle as it is about the external. Campbell, known for her riveting performances in previous works like Barbarian and Bird Box: Barcelona, showcases a range of emotions, ensuring that audiences are firmly invested in her journey, even as it becomes increasingly abstract.
Supporting performances, especially by Wai Ching Ho, add depth and context. Yet, the true standout is the film’s visual style. Collaborating with Rui Poças, Sutherland paints the screen with breathtaking shots of nature in its raw beauty, making the horror elements even more jarring by contrast.
While Sutherland’s storytelling leans towards the oblique, the film’s strength lies in its ability to engage viewers in a participatory manner. Rather than detracting, the vagueness invites audiences to fill in the blanks with their own interpretations and fears. However, there is an argument to be made that this approach sacrifices character depth. The labyrinthine plot sometimes obscures Lennon’s motivations, leaving viewers longing for a more apparent emotional connection.
Adding another layer to this cosmic horror is the film’s brilliant track. From the amplification of natural sounds to the haunting whispers of podcasts discussing mysterious disappearances, the auditory experience is as immersive as the visual. It is a movie where the audio is as important as the visuals, washing over the viewer and transporting them to a place as dark and haunting as it is beautiful.
A chilling commentary runs throughout Lovely, Dark, and Deep regarding the numerous unsolved cases of missing persons in national parks. The way the film takes a grounded, real-world mystery and wraps it in a harrowing supernatural twist leaves chilling questions that linger long after the credits roll. It is strangely heartbreaking when the truth is revealed, yet it works incredibly well to make even the most ruthless choices ultimately make sense.
Lovely, Dark, and Deep stands as a testament to Sutherland’s flair for weaving atmospheric horror. While it might delve more into surface ripples than the depths of its cosmic horror potential, it remains a hauntingly beautiful cinematic experience. As an exploration of human vulnerability, cosmic vastness, and nature’s ambivalence, the film is a chilling journey worth taking.