Dark Nature (2022) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Dark Nature (2022) Review

Horrorific content by christina on July 22nd, 2022 | Movie Review | Slasher, Canadian, Survival, Female Revenge, Psychological, Wilderness, Thriller, Isolation, B-Horror

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It's about an all-women therapy group who travel into the Rocky Mountains to confront their past, only for something sinister to be following them.

Dark Nature was directed by Berkley Brady and stars Hannah Anderson (Jigsaw), Roseanne Supernault, Griffin Cork (Cold Wind Blowing), Daniel Arnold, Helen Belay, Ivy Miller, Lisa Moreau (Alive), Madison Walsh (Don't Say Its Name), and Kyra Harper (The Eye of the Beast).

Dark Nature (2022) Review

Berkley Brady's directorial feature debut, Dark Nature, is the story of a therapy group that is put to the test when an isolated weekend retreat forces them to confront the demons of their past. The Canadian film has several similarities to Neil Marshall's The Descent, including an all-female cast, a wilderness setting, and a focus on trauma. As a result, comparisons will inevitably be made between the two movies.

The opening scene of Dark Nature is very upsetting: it shows Joy being strangled by her boyfriend, Derek. The violence is graphic and disturbing, so it's no wonder that Joy is still traumatized several months later. Visual hallucinations of Derek's character accompany the audio cue of a lighter clicking open. This frequently occurs throughout the film and is symbolic of Derek's presence.

Carmen, Joy's best friend, is sympathetic but frustrated with Joy's recent behavior. Since Joy has retreated into a near-agoraphobic state, she has stopped engaging with anyone, including Carmen. The proposed solution is a weekend therapy group for women in the wilderness, led by the famous and eccentric Dr. Dunley. This is Carmen's attempt to help Joy regain a sense of control and agency, but it is also an attempt to save their friendship. The bond between the women is vital; it's as essential as the dreadful things that happen to them as they travel deeper into the woods.

The film was set in the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, Canada, and it used the natural surroundings like the rocky quarries, thick woods, and dangerous bodies of water found there. The geography in the film is both beautiful and scary, with aerial shots of trees and mountains emphasizing the characters' isolation. The women are alone in the wilderness, except for the dangerous presence stalking them.

Halfway through the film, the story becomes more apparent as the events that Joy is experiencing become more anchored in reality. In addition, she is struggling with PTSD, which makes her an unreliable narrator to some extent. In this sense, Dark Nature resembles the narrative structure of more recent films like Knocking and Saint Maud, in which female-identifying characters question their mental state throughout the film.

Something is menacingly stalking the woods in which the characters find themselves, and thankfully director Brady adopts the now-familiar slasher-movie POV shot early to confirm this. Importantly, these moments don't just feature the central character Joy, but also her companions Carmen and the other patients--self-harming Tara and former soldier Shaina. So the question is not whether Joy's experiences are all in her mind, but who is with her: Derek or someone else?

When the true nature of the events is finally revealed, Dark Nature begins to falter. Several critical scenes of violence are ineffective due to the film's low budget, the character choices, and the film's overall pacing becoming less believable as the danger escalates.

This movie is incredibly frustrating because we know from The Descent that this premise has potential. Unfortunately, Dark Nature overlooks its most intriguing and unique elements – the nature of Dr. Dunley's treatment and the relationship between the women and their respective traumas – to get to the only-somewhat satisfying violent bits. The visual effects are sound, but the film doesn't explore the idea of female friendship and therapy as a means of healing in a satisfying way.

Worth Watching? 

Is it satisfying finally getting to see Joy work out her issues in a violent way? Absolutely, but Dark Nature could have been so much more.

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