I have discovered a new creature-feature that has rejuvenated my love of the genre.
Monster Hunter (or Dark Was The Night as it is known around the rest of the world) is a tense, well-directed scary film set in the snowy Northern United States. Using washed out filter effects, lots of drawn out silences and utilizing the hard terrain of upstate New York, the film oozes bleakness.
The story of a small town waking up to strange bipedal hoof-prints that go on for miles may seem strangely familiar to you as it did to me. It’s based on an incident that happened in the UK in 1855. I am not sure how reliable the local press was back then unfortunately, as when I looked into it, the culprit behind the footprints seems to either be a rogue weather balloon with a trailing tether or a group of field mice. I think you will agree that either of these scenarios would have made for a disappointing if absurd M. Night Shyamalan style twist at the end.
The lead actor here is Kevin Durand, who most of you will know from The Strain or Lost. His role sets Dark Was the Night/Monster Hunter/Whatever apart from your normal run-of-the-mill creature features. He’s totally believable as the grieving and guilt-ridden Sheriff Paul Shields who has no clue as to what’s going on. You really start to feel for Shields as more and more townsfolk turn to him for direction.
Lucas Haas plays his equally troubled deputy, who seems much more open to a supernatural answer to the town’s mystery. I find it refreshing that they didn’t play up his tough New Yorker background, though a bit of Travis Bickle may have been handy in the ensuing peril.
The creature itself is kept off camera for 99.9% of the film. We have the classic Jaws technique of building tension through budget saving constraints. The scene with the footprints alone is deeply unnerving and all we really get to see are marks in the snow. The attack at the horse farm is also ably done without the need to show us more than a fast moving grey mass. If I had any criticism of this film it would be that the creature is a tad mental when the big reveal happens. It felt as though perhaps they were trying to be too bizarre in their creature design. This however doesn’t detract from the frights and weirdness that precedes it.
Give it a go and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. It’s no Dog Soldiers but that’s not what it’s aiming for. What we have here is closer in essence to The Descent. Out goes the humour and in comes the bleakness. A grown up creature feature for a depressed generation. God I wish I didn’t live in the middle of nowhere. 4/5
For more spine-chilling thrills to watch over Halloween, check out our complete 31 days of horror movies list.