Apr 14, 2023
David Rice, Damita Harris, Jordan Bryant
Extravagant characters and classic staples make up the highlights of Adam Sergent’s Darkness Hunting, a lower budget comedy horror that charms through its exploration and subversions of its unusual genre.
A group of five ghosthunters head out to a secluded woods to explore a haunted house. Led by the fame-hungry Derek (David Rice), the gang stage a series of clips to demonstrate ‘strange’ phenomena they uncover – but brainiac researcher Eli (Wheeler Green) is sceptical the house holds what they seek. To the surprise of absolutely no-one, it turns out that a presence even more horrifying than the gang imagined is ready to emerge…
Baffling yet intriguing, muddled yet endearing, there’s something about Darkness Hunting that just clicks despite some bizarre and inadvisable creative directions. The film is overlong, the plot is largely copy/paste material, the script is packed with exposition and clunky, stilted dialogue, and technological problems beleaguer throughout. And yet there is a notable sense of passion in the film emanating from the filmmakers and cast that has a marked effect of edging down these flaws and playing into the black comedy of a film that follows a long line of over-the-top, low-budget horrors.
The film pays homage to countless predecessors and lovingly deconstructs the ridiculousness of its genre. Filled with many more laughs than scares, the story focuses on the demonic and satanic without ever really stepping up the terror. Instead, elements of a horror movie are utilised to explore the relationships and dynamics between the characters, and satirise the bizarre circumstances of its influences. Tonally, it fits the film perfectly, but horror enthusiasts should not go in expecting to hide behind the couch.
The ensemble cast make the film work. Each of the primary five characters brings enough energy, colour and continuing development to grab the viewer’s interest and reshape themselves regularly enough to keep it fixated. Initially appearing as bored caricatures, Sergent slowly unravels his casts’ layers to reveal fascinating and unexpected dynamics. David Rice is suitably sleazy as ghosthunter host Derek, whose fine performance is almost upstaged by an early-2000s goatee that says more than any acting could. Wheeler Green’s unnerving turn as Eli is lovingly camp, and works well in establishing standings between the gang. But Jordan Bryant as Boyd stands out as the film’s heart. His moving explanation of how he got involved in ghost hunting is a rare moment of levity that results in audience connection with the character beyond surface-level enjoyment of their extravagant personalities.
A word should be reserved for rather poor sound design and mixing throughout. Imperfections are to be expected with lower-budget features, however the quality of the vocal recording makes almost every character’s lines muffled and distant. Furthermore, a whimsical, happy-go-lucky score seems to accompany 80% of the runtime. Seemingly used to play up the farcical comedy at the outset, it becomes increasingly distracting as the film goes on and quickly wears out its welcome.
Under no circumstances is Darkness Hunting a great movie, and one suspects the filmmakers never truly aimed to make one. What it is at its best is a fun movie, with characters that are enjoyable to watch and comedy that plays entertainingly with its genre. It does begin to drag even at 70 minutes, but a sense of charm, passion and ambition means viewers have enough to enjoy for the most part.
Watch the Darkness Hunting official trailer here.