Out of Darkness
Feb 9, 2024
Ruth Greenberg, Andrew Cumming, Oliver Kassman
Chuku Modu, Safia Oakley-Green, Kit Young
Some 45,000 years ago, Adem (Chuku Modu) and his mate Ave (Iola Evans), his heir (Luna Mwezi), his brother (Kit Young), the elder (Arno Lüning), and a stray (Safia Oakley-Green) left their hunter-gatherer community and crossed the water, looking for the paradise Adem had heard tell of in the old lands.
We know this because the little group spins yarns around a campfire to stave off starvation, and wise Odal (Lüning) is entertaining. He’s also owning the narrative, a concept co-writer (working with Ruth Greenberg and Oliver Kassman) and director Andrew Cumming returns to often as he contemplates early human history with his stone age thriller, Out of Darkness.
Adem, confident of his godlike abilities and his entitlement, believes he will establish his own paradise in this land. But there is no food in sight, and pregnant Ave may die or lose another baby if he does not find food soon.
And yet, starvation may be the least of the little band’s worries. Gathered around the fire at night, they feel movement in the shadows, hear unearthly shrieking. Have they angered demons? Will they become prey?
An imposing Scottish landscape lends the film immeasurable production value, and the invented language adds authenticity. Each performance is solid. Modu, as the steely alpha, is pitiless and selfish. Lüning delivers a conniving turn, and Oakley-Green, as the underdog hero, mines a primitive spirit for complexity.
The film itself treads somewhat familiar ground–a little bit Prey, a touch Quest for Fire, maybe a little Bone Tomahawk.
The film expertly plays with audience expectations. A “brains trump brute force” evolution tale, a la One Million B.C.? A feminist reimagining of prehistory? A pioneering story, or one of invasion? Is it a man versus nature ordeal, or is it a horror movie?
Out of Darkness asks more questions than it answers. That’s not to say there are plot holes–the script is airtight. But what Cumming is out to communicate about our humble beginnings or what that has to say about humanity is a little tougher to decipher.