Review: Coming Home in the Dark (Sundance 2021)

Title: Coming Home in the Dark
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Director: James Ashcroft
Starring: Daniel Gillies, Erik Thomson, Miriama McDowell
Runtime: 1 hr 33 mins

What It Is: Following the brutal aftermath of a New Zealand family’s trip at the hands of a pair of menacing and unpredictable drifters named Mandrake (Daniel Gillies) and Tubs (Matthias Luafutu) where little did he know, a school teacher named Hoaggie (Erik Thomson) is forced to confront the sins of his past.

What We Think: The simplest of premises are often the most effective and with Coming Home in the Dark, that fact could not be more true. Part road trip movie and sort of home invasion thriller, this masterclass in tension over the course of its short running time. Though the film could be shorter as a means to cut down on the repetitive nature of the film’s premise. it was merely a minor issue as the film’s atmosphere makes it hard to not look away, especially one performance in particular. Part of that tension came from these drifters whose seemingly random plan maybe wasn’t so random after all. Establishing their brutal nature early on set the tone while their unpredictability just added to that tension.

The majority of the film may be spent in a car supposedly driving to the titular home but what made the film so gripping as viewers will surely be kept on the edge of their seats not knowing what happens next and learning the truth behind the actions of these drifters all while waiting to see if Hoaggie and his wife Jill (Miriama McDowell) will survive. It became immediately clear how far they would go in pursuit of some perceived justice from an incident related to Hoaggie’s past which only ratcheted up the stakes and made things downright scary at times to watch, unrelenting all the way to the end.

Our Grade: B+, Coming Home in the Dark is an effective and gruesome slow-burn thriller lifted by a strong script and a sensational performance from Daniel Gillies, where he was not only scary but grounded that brutality with plenty of humanity. Genre fans should definitely check it out.

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Author: Keith Noakes