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[FrightFest Glasgow 2024] FILM REVIEW: The Deep Dark

The Deep Dark - FrightFest Glasgow 2024 UK Premiere Review


Director: Mathieu Turi

Starring: Samuel Le Bihan, Amir El Kacem, Thomas Solivérès, Jean-Hughes Anglade


Written by: Mathieu Turi

Produced by: Eric Gendarme, Thomas Lubeau

Cinematography by: Alain Duplantier

Original Score by: Olivier Derivière


Synopsis:

Miners are forced to take a professor underground with them, to take samples for his measurements. After a landslide prevents them from going back up, they discover a crypt from another time, unknowingly waking up a bloodthirsty creature


The Deep Dark Film Review

Thoughts:

It is arguable that the claustrophobic creature feature hit its peak with Neil Marshall's 2005 film 'The Descent'. In the wake of its release a number of films have tried to replicate its winning formula with their own spin on it as seen with the likes of 'The Ruins' and 'As Above, So Below'. The latest film in this vein is French film 'The Deep Dark' which sees a group of miners trapped in a mine when they escort a professor on a scientific expedition. In their search for a way out they come across an ancient crypt and soon find out that they are not alone as something is stalking them in the darkness. 



The most striking thing about the film that stands out from the beginning is how well director Mathieu Turi grounds everything. From the opening prologue set in 1856 to the time jump 100 years in the future (where most of the film is set) you get a real sense of what the work of a miner was back then. You can almost feel the dirt underneath your fingernails and the dust in your lungs while watching it. He is able to achieve this by taking his time with the film. He is in no rush to just throw you into the character's predicament, he goes through their day to day routine, their general worklife and the dangers that come with the job. It all works in favour of making the fantastical elements a little more believable (and ultimately more unsettling) once they come into play. 


The Deep Dark Film Review

Turi also does some terrific work in how he uses the setting. The world outside of the mines is brightly lit with so many wide shots establishing a big open world. Even Olivier Derivière's score evokes a sense of grandeur during these scenes. Its effectiveness really hits home the second the action moves back to the mines. The film becomes shrouded in darkness and claustrophobia that can feel choking as you feel every bit as trapped as the miners with tight shots between the buttresses on the surrounding walls. There is also a dichotomy in how he utilises wide shots underground too as you are always on alert scanning the dark corners of the screen waiting for something to pounce. One such sequence (and probably the highlight of the film) involves an injured miner using the flash from a camera to see in the dark, putting the viewer on edge. 



There is also some solid character work at play in the film as it takes its time establishing the characters of the piece instead of making them talking slabs of meat awaiting an inevitable slaughter that we've seen time and time again in lesser films. There's the likes of Amir (Amir El Kacem), a young Moroccan man who is desperate for work just to survive, Roland (Samuel Le Bihan), a World War 2 veteran who leads the mining team and Berthier (Jean-Hugues Anglade) the professor who has nefarious intentions. These characters and the rest of the mining team tick the boxes of every trope and cliche we've seen before in these kinds of films but the extra care taken in establishing them and adding extra little details about them elevates them above lesser fare. It also helps that the entire cast have good chemistry on screen and are all committed to their roles. 



Another highlight of the film is the creature known as the Mok'noroth. A Lovecraftian nightmare, the creature is portrayed on screen entirely through the use of practical effects. It is grotesque in appearance but a fantastic piece of work from the effects team which is genuinely frightening when shot with sparse lighting in the darkness. Unfortunately its impact diminishes in scenes where it is fully lit as the limitations in the puppetry are more apparent but it does not take away from its exceptional design. The makeup team also does brilliant work in tandem with them as there is one of the most gruesomely impressive beheading scenes I have seen in a horror film for a while. 


The Deep Dark Film Review

Whilst 'The Deep Dark' doesn't reinvent the wheel for this kind of film it stands as a well polished piece of work within the genre. There is enough tension and mystery to keep the viewer intrigued throughout. Even fans in search of some cool creature designs and gore get their money's worth with the film. It may be a slow burn but it is definitely one that rewards your attention and patience, particularly if you are a fan of Lovecraft. 


Verdict: ⭐️⭐️⭐️½


-Joseph McElroy


'The Deep Dark' received its UK Premiere at FrightFest Glasgow on March 8th

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