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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 02.25.15] horror thriller mystery

What's worse: bad horror movies or mediocre ones that don't leave much of an impression. The latter is the case with Out of the Dark, the latest in a string of Spanish/American co-productions that see Hollywood stars making movies in English that only occasionally see any sort of substantial release in North America. The thing is, sometimes these movies are actually really great, as is the case with Red Lights (trailer) which blew me away when I finally caught up with in on home video a few years ago. This one? Not so much.

Out of the Dark stars Julia Stiles and Scott Speedman as Sarah and Paul Harriman, both actors who have appeared in their share of mediocre fare but are always really great, as a married couple who move to Colombia with their young daughter so that Sarah can take over management of the family business: making paper. The pair arrive shortly before a local festival to celebrate and remember the lives of the young children who were burned alive by Conquistadors. Sarah and Paul begin to think they're seeing burned children and then their daughter gets sick and just when they decide it's been swell and they should really be getting home, their daughter is kidnapped by the creepy ghost kids and the family, along with Sarah's father Jordan (Stephen Rea), go searching for the little girl.

If it sounds familiar, it's because it is. Part ghost and part haunted house story, Out of the Dark doesn't manage to deliver anything new or interesting in either genre. Heck, it's not even a particularly good entry into either canon. The only things of any note about the movie is the setting which adds a bit of an exotic twist to the familiar plot lines, and Stiles and Speedman who really give into their respective roles. They're both great but it seems that they're both acting in a movie that is far better than the one we get to see. Wish I could see that movie.

The entire thing culminates into a showdown at an abandoned building which offers possibilities for creepiness but the scene in which Jordan gives himself in exchange for his granddaughter is somewhat laughable not to mention it features some ridiculous special effects and a plot point that feels so on the nose I let a giggle escape.

Out of the Dark is competently made. Actually, the movie looks fantastic, features a great moody score from Fernando Velázquez (of Mama and The Orphanage fame) that accompany a handful of creepy scenes but these are so few and far between the jump scares and mediocre plotting that the movie never quite manages to scare. It's not terrible, but Out of the Dark is a middle of the road thriller that never quite manages the meet the promise of the story or the cast.

Here's hoping Speedman and Stiles work together again in the future because they play off of each other really well.

Out of the Dark is now available on VOD and opens theatrically in limited release on February 27.

Our own Daniel Olmos had a similar reaction to the film.

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