31 Days of Hallowe’en 2021, Day 1: Coming Home in the Dark [2021]

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Another October, another year in quarantine. At least some things have stayed constant. But October, my favourite part of the year – the spooks, the chills (figurative and literal), the cozy sweaters, the first-season head colds – is now upon us.

Every year, this time of year feels more like a rebirth to me than spring.

Even through another covid-sheltering (particularly as the general public and governments seem more than happy to pretend like we’re still not in the middle of a pandemic in which infections and hospital cases keep rising in the country that has the world’s worst death rate), at least I can safely celebrate the creepy season in my own way, live I’ve always done – with my yearly month-long horror-thon, now in its 9th year.

I’m still compiling a list of potential films for this month, led by festival line-ups. One day I really hope I’ll get to Sitges.

Enough preamble. This is not a recipe site.

image source: wikipedia

Tonight’s movie was Coming Home in the Dark, a chilling New Zealand offering that straddles the line between thriller and horror (by which I’ve always been both fascinated and perplexed). Directed by newcomer James Ashcroft, and adapted from Owen Marshall’s award-winning short story of the same name, there is very little set-up: a middle-aged couple is on a picnic with their older teenage sons when they are ambushed by a pair of men.

The story unfolds piecemeal over its brisk 88 minutes, with most of the events taking place in and around the car journey they are forced to take after being abducted.

Strong performances, taut camerawork and heightened ambient, background noise are punctuated by bursts of violence and tension amid small but unpredictable plot turns, making us, as viewers, feel as close as possible to the claustrophobic atmosphere.

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