The Movie Waffler New Release Review - THEY WAIT IN THE DARK | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - THEY WAIT IN THE DARK

They Wait in the Dark review
When an abused woman flees with her son to her family's disused farmhouse, they're menaced by a supernatural presence.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Patrick Rea

Starring: Sarah McGuire, Laurie Catherine Winkel, Patrick McGee, Paige Maria, Meagan Flynn, John Thomson

They Wait in the Dark poster

In recent years I've seen a few horror movies that might arguably have worked better if they excised their supernatural elements and functioned as grounded thrillers instead. Given its premise - an abused woman hides with her son in a haunted house - I feared that might be the case with writer/director Patrick Rea's They Wait in the Dark. Would the thriller plot of a woman fleeing her abusive partner clash with the horror elements? I'm happy to report that the two strands work in tandem here, building to a satisfying entangling of the two seemingly disparate plots in the climax.

Following a flashback that sees a young Amy standing over her mother's bloody corpse laid out on a bed, we cut to the present, where the adult Amy (Sarah McGuire) and her adopted son Adrian (Patrick McGee) are sleeping rough in backrooms of truck stops and cheap motels. Amy sports a nasty gash in her abdomen and reassures her son that his other mom, Judith (Laurie Catherine Winkel), won't find them. Amy's plan is to hide out in her childhood home, a remote farmhouse she never told Judith about.

They Wait in the Dark review

Arriving there via a last leg lift from Amy's old friend Jenny (Paige Maria), Amy finds that the old house has become a haven for partying teens seemingly familiar with the story of how her mom was murdered by her father, who later passed away in prison. The word "murderer" is daubed on a wall, the house is littered with empty beer cans, and there's a pentagram surrounded by candles in the basement.

After lighting some of the candles, Adrian begins seeing a presence in the house, which eventually begins to physically attack Amy, who later wakes with no recollection of what happened. Meanwhile, Judith is making her way closer to the fugitives, showing strangers a photo of Amy and Adrian and humiliating cat-calling men, as though she were a terminator in search of Sarah Connors.

They Wait in the Dark review

Winkel's Judith is such a darkly charismatic presence that we genuinely fear for her catching up with Amy. Each time she arrives at a location we've seen Amy pass through the tension rises another notch on the suspense dial. It's unclear however just how Judith knows where to go in search of Amy, as she doesn't seem to come across any clues until she's practically on top of her. It's the one frustrating element of an otherwise sound piece of storytelling.

If the supernatural subplot initially seems derivative and one-note, give it time. As the narrative progresses we realise there's more than meets the eye here and we begin to question everything we've been told. It's a sign of how many modern movies are badly written and lacking in visual storytelling that we find ourselves accepting what we're told at face value. When the director begins to show us things that contradict what his characters have told us, we're reminded that in the visual medium of cinema, we should only trust what we see rather than what we're told.

They Wait in the Dark review

They Wait in the Dark suffers from a couple of subpar supporting performances, but McGuire and Winkel excel as the cat and mouse pairing of Amy and Judith. There's a nervousness about McGuire's performance that suggests Amy may not be the victim she claims to be, and there's a slight vulnerability behind Winkel's badass front that hints at Judith playing a role she's not entirely suited to.

There's a possible subtext to be read into here regarding race relations in the US, particularly how black people are commodified by white liberals. Judith and Amy adopting an African-American child seems like a colourblind casting choice here, but as we learn the details of both Adrian's backstory and the nature of the supernatural presence menacing Amy, it's difficult not to read this as a racial allegory. It's probably not a coincidence that the movie closes with a brief moment of consolation between three black characters.

They Wait in the Dark is on UK/ROI VOD from November 13th.

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