Coming Home in the Dark frightens its audience within minutes. The second secret screening at the Chattanooga Film Fest (or, Secret Screening #1) starts with a family taking a scenic drive on the New Zealand coast. Unsurprisingly, they bicker over the things families tend to on long drives. The opening moments are filled with beautiful shots. This kind of beauty can only be juxtaposed by the worst violence.
As the film’s opening continues, the tension ramps up to near unbelievable levels. It is not long before violence arrives. Coming Home in the Dark trades the openness of the wilderness for the closeness of a car. Before long, the film poses interesting questions. What once seemed like a random encounter may have deeper motivation. The idea that everything is a “happy coincidence” starts to seem unlikely.
The movie is an emotionally exhausting ride that does not give the audience a chance to catch their breath. Coming Home in the Dark is a talk heavy thriller. Yet a chaotic pace runs through the whole thing. This is due to the anxiety inducing moments director James Ashcroft presents. The story is filled with grey areas and moral ambiguity. Watching the plot unfold is almost an unpleasant experience.
It is hard for a film to depend on one element the entire time. Coming Home in the Dark relies on its escalating tension to carry its story. When it inevitably peaks, things almost grind to a halt. It does not ruin the movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it is noticeable. That being said, the vast majority of the film keeps viewers on the edge of their seats.
Coming Home in the Dark is a powerful movie propelled forward by its pressure packed moments. Along the way, it asks important questions. Ideas of guilt and blame are touched upon. There may be no concrete answers, but the potential ones are just as frightening.
The Chattanooga Film Festival takes place from June 24 – June 29
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