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London Film Festival Review: In Darkness We Fall

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★★☆☆☆

This Spanish found-footage horror thriller is from the same cinematic neck-of-the-woods as shockers such as The Descent and the recent catacombs-set fright fest As Above, So Below. It also starts off in a very similar way to many other horror films: a group of twenty-somethings set off for a holiday/trip/expedition and find themselves in a terrifying situation.

The opener sets the character foundations. A sensible girl, a party-girl, a hot jock, a weird one, and a camera operator who we rarely see. They are a pretty unlikable bunch of uncouth, loud, homophobic, annoying drug users and when they fall into a perilous situation during a trip into the caves one can’t help but be a bit hopeful that they will all soon meet a nasty end.

Unfortunately for us, Alfredo Montero is in for the long game, and the harrowing ordeal that awaits the group is not one you’d wish on your own worst enemy. It’s protracted, horrible and almost unbearable to witness. The sense of despair is palpable and chilling and if you think things are getting bad when they start to drink each others' urine, you wait and see where it takes you next.

This is a grim piece of work, a more-or-less charmless exercise in cruelty and suffering. However, that's not to say it is bankrupt of all talent. Though Montero could have halved the running time and still have achieved an unsettling effect, his ability to insert unexpected moments of humour amidst the nastiness adds a clever touch to the ordeal. It doesn’t quite make it all worth it, however, and the film stumbles to an all too predictable conclusion. Though this isn’t an American film, it follows the US-horror-film staple of having a ‘final girl’, and you will be able to spot instantly who it will end up being.

There is also a problem with the found-footage aspect. Although it is supposed to be shot with a single camera that they drag around the caves with them the filmmakers clearly switch between a big, professional-level filmmaking camera (I think, by the looks of it, the RED, or maybe an Arri Alexa) and a consumer-grade standard off-the-shelf camera (the type they are supposed to have). The aesthetic shift this results in is jarring.

In Darkness We Fall isn’t a total failure, but it becomes a victim of itself; a collection of standout scenes that betray the shaky-quality of those that surround them. Claustrophobia inducing, gruelling, and frustrating in equal measure.

In Darkness We Fall (2014), directed by Alfredo Montero, is showing as part of the BFI London Film Festival this October. To buy tickets go to whatson.bfi.org.uk. Watch the trailer below:

 




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