Running time: 86 mins
Director: George Clarke
Starring: Robert Render, Jo Lamont-Crawford, Vivian Jamison
Genre: Horror, Drama
Dixon House has sat abandoned, neglected and abused for years. It the last job of maintenance man Rob Walker (Render) before he and his wife Jo (Lamont-Crawford) finally get out of Northern Ireland and away on honeymoon, but in a house with a particularly haunted history will he see the dawn of his new life?
Horror's cinematic history is filled to the brim with haunted house movies. It’s a genre that affords the imagination to run wild, unnerve the audience and kept everyone up all night long. It’s also one that’s notoriously tricky to deal with – because of the amount of audience exposure we have had over one hundred years of cinema. Director George Clarke (Battle of the Bone, The Knackery) is back behind the camera full time for a different kind of horror film. I enjoy haunted house movies, I enjoy how they linger with you longer than the length of the film and I enjoy how culturally they all tap into white guilt (as the majority of large home owners of these supposedly haunted houses are crackers). When you take that, add the connotative meanings of what may have caused a haunted house in Northern Ireland and top it off with Clarke’s Asian-seasoned sensibilities what we’re left with is a simple tale of "bump in the night" with long lasting feeling that there’s something under the bed.
Clarke’s return to full-time lens duty is welcome. What was most impressive about Battle of the Bone was the cinematography and his use of framing and it’s returned in The Last Light in abundance. The opening, lingering shots as
drives, first to home then to work, gives the audience a sense of isolation
that will come in handy in latter stages of the film but it’s not just these
moments. Once inside the house there are
some truly beautiful rendering on screen.
As the house is boarded up and the lead effectively imprisoning himself
several of the shots are heavily tilted in framing. It carries a psychological reality that was
born out of German Expressionism and very much feel like shots from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari or The Last Laugh. It feeds the fear of the mind. The use of lighting, especially the elements
of chiaroscuro are very much appreciated.
It’s a film that looks educated, it understands not just cinematic
history but our cultural history. In the
review of The Knackery we discussed
the notion of a national cinema and though Northern Ireland is lacking of this
there are moments in The Last Light that
threatens hope, an aspiration in the audience that our cultural history could
be turned to metaphor and depicted on screen in something other than The Devil’s Own. It’s something that Clarke is striving
towards, and it looks great.
Render is a real find. He has a naturalism to his performance that can not be bought, learned or traded for at a crossroads. His delivery and on screen presence are both excellent. It’s a massive job. By and large the film is him, alone, and in the dark. If it doesn’t work then it’s his fault but it does and he should be extremely proud of what he’s put down on film. There’s also some work going for Clarke’s children Leo and Tobyn (as ghost children). Working with children is notoriously fraught with pit falls but surprisingly not here. They’re both great, they’re both creepy (no offence George…but on screen they are!) and they add to the film that Hideo Nakata moment that lifts the film out of the regional and on to the international stage. Their moments on screen are truly unnerving and further enhanced by Clarke’s editing. It’s amazing what can be accomplished with a little time and ambition.
take note, go away and think about this.
Similarly all the ghostly performers give the film a certain quality
which almost demands that it’s best watched in daylight and with a friend…who
owns a gun. Michael Bay
It’s quite an achievement for a film that resides in, not just, a genre that’s so heavily populated but a sub-genre of horror that’s got such a well trodden path, that it still manages to scare, unnerve and last. The Last Light is very much an older film from Clarke, it’s very much a transition piece as he settles into his role as
Northern Ireland’s premiere
independent director and it’s his most emotive film yet.
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