Sundance 2021: Coming Home In The Dark

Coming Home in the Dark takes only a few minutes to get to the point: Hoaggie (Erik Thomson) and Jill (Miriama McDowell) have brought their sons to a beautiful scenic point for a lovely picnic lunch. The teenage boys are livid of course, to be dragged outdoors, to be forcibly unplugged, even for a minute. But then the family picnic is crashed by some uninvited guests, who hold the family at gunpoint, wanting more from them than just wallets and phones.

Holding them hostage, the two men with guns, Mandrake (Daniel Gillies) and Tubs (Matthias Luafutu), take them on a road trip nightmare that can’t possibly end well. But this isn’t some random stick up. Hoaggie has been specifically targeted because of his past as a school teacher and his survival might hinge on a terrible confession. This is a tale of revenge that skewers us with the question of whether or not silence equals complicity. Is allowing something bad to happen the same as doing the bad thing?

This movie will stun you with its intensity, its brutality, and its emotional impact. It doesn’t quite have enough to fully justify a feature length run time but it’s such an effective gut-punch that I’ll give its sparsity a pass. Though this movie is from New Zealand, I could still relate to the cultural trauma as a Canadian; we have sins in common. Many filmmakers here have worked with the subject but I’ve never seen it done so nakedly honest as this, a horror movie for horrific events. It’s an interesting way to comment on collective trauma and a new way to add to the conversation that clearly needs to keep happening.

Coming Home In The Dark stands on its own merits. More than just gripping terror, it features some magnetic, powerful performances that will make this film hard to shake. James Ashcroft I know I’ll come back to, because I’m certain he has more to say.

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