The Movie Waffler New Release Review - LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP

Lovely, Dark, and Deep review
A park ranger's past haunts her when she takes a post in the remote back country of a national park.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Teresa Sutherland

Starring: Georgina Campbell, Nick Blood, Wai Ching Ho

Lovely, Dark, and Deep poster

It takes a certain type of personality to take on the role of a back country ranger in one of America's vast national parks. The job often requires you to be alone in the deep woods for weeks at a time, so it probably attracts those who wish to escape human interaction for various reasons, sort of like the Foreign Legion for anyone who doesn't like being shouted at.

Lovely, Dark, and Deep review

The protagonist of Teresa Sutherland's feature debut Lovely, Dark, and Deep initially seems like she's become a park ranger for such anti-social reasons. Lennon (Georgina Campbell) has agreed to spend the summer manning a ranger station deep in the woods of the fictional Arvores national park. The awkward attempts of fellow rangers to make small talk are rebuffed by Lennon, who seems eager to get as far away from people as possible and immerse herself in the solitude of the woods.

We quickly learn that Lennon may have an ulterior motive for taking up this post. 20 years ago her little sister Jenny disappeared in Arvores, never to be seen again. Brief flashes of Lennon's nightmares suggest she has been weighed down with guilt ever since. Rather than staying put at her cabin and awaiting orders, Lennon takes it upon herself to hike into the woods for days at a time, presumably hoping to find some clues as to what became of her sister. A snippet of a podcast tells us that Jenny is but one of hundreds who have disappeared in the park, and it's suggested that a cover-up is being deployed by the powers that be.

Lovely, Dark, and Deep review

When Lennon stumbles across a distraught, lost young woman who mumbles the words "Are you real?" upon sight of the ranger, it sets off a chain of increasingly surreal and nightmarish events that cause Lennon to question her sanity. She receives garbled instructions over her walkie talkie despite its batteries being drained. She comes across an elderly camping couple who don't seem to be aware of her presence. Entering her cabin, she finds herself back in her childhood home.

Lovely, Dark, and Deep, which takes its name from Robert Frost's poem 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening', is but the latest in a growing line of American indie horrors that posit America's backwoods as possessing the enigmatic powers of "The Zone" from Tarkovsky's Stalker or the titular setting of Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock. The surreal second half of Sutherland's film plays like a compendium of moments cribbed from the likes of Twin Peaks, The Blair Witch Project, Yellow Brick Road and the recent Twilight Zone-esque thriller Brightwood. Such sequences are well executed, but for seasoned genre fans there's a distinct lack of originality in its box of tricks. After drawing us in with an intriguing mystery in its opening scenes, Lovely, Dark, and Deep gradually begins to test our patience with the anything goes nature of its back half.

Lovely, Dark, and Deep review

It's Campbell's performance that keeps things grounded even when the surreal shit begins to hit the absurdist fan. The British actress has quickly established herself as a reliable staple of genre cinema and possesses the sort of convincing vulnerability that makes her the ideal horror heroine. Were it not for Campbell's presence and the spectacular setting (Portugal convincingly standing in for an American national park), Lovely, Dark, and Deep would be more of a slog than a trek through its woods. Despite its atmospheric setting, Sutherland's debut never manages to get sufficiently under our skin. As a horror movie it has miles to go before it causes us to lose any sleep.

Lovely, Dark, and Deep
 is on UK/ROI VOD from March 25th.

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