Atmospheric but not at all frightening, this supernatural would-be thriller uses its Colombian locations effectively, but despite the presence of a fine cast in Julia Stiles, Scott Speedman and Stephen Rea, “Out of the Dark” makes very little lasting impact. Even the title is bland.
Stiles and Speedman play Sarah and Paul Harriman, who arrive in rural Colombia with their little daughter Hannah (Pixie Davies). They’re welcomed by Sarah’s father Jordan (Rea), who runs the paper plant where Sarah is to take over as manager while Paul, an illustrator of children’s books, remains home with Hannah in the large company-owned estate Jordan’s arranged for them to use. The situation seems ideal until it becomes apparent that the estate is haunted by masked figures that appear to concentrate their attentions on the girl.
From Contreras (Alejandro Furth), the company doctor, and the family of their babysitter Catalina (Vanesa Tamayo), the Harrimans learn of an incident in the region’s distant past, when Spanish conquistadors slaughtered local children—an event remembered in an annual religious procession. But more to the point, they uncover an episode in the recent past, when a group of local children died as a result of mercury poisoning that seeped into the river from the paper plant. The kidnapping of Hannah will require her parents and grandfather to retrieve her from the ghosts who, it appears from a prologue, were also responsible for the death of Contreras’ father, his predecessor as the company doctor, who apparently covered up the youngsters’ deaths.
As directed by Luis Quilez, this rather thin story is told very deliberately, but Isaac Vila’s cinematography is moodily effective, and the locations are nicely caught. Stiles and Speedman do what’s demanded of them, though without much distinction, while Rea is so low-key that he barely registers. Davies is a charming child, however, and the water-based effects in the finale, in which the spirits of the dead children appear in what appear to be tubes of waves, are reasonably good.
Overall, however, “Out of the Dark” is a slow, pedestrian slog through horror tropes you’ve seen many times before, and the finger of blame pointed at corporate malfeasance is all too familiar. The stronger-than-usual cast is a point in its favor, but they can’t raise the picture above the level of a humdrum supernatural melodrama.