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In the Dark Half


Stars: Jessica Barden, Tony Curran, Lyndsey Marshall, Simon Armstrong, Georgia Henshaw, Tim Lewis

Director: Alastair Siddons

An extremely slow film that falls somewhere between psychological drama and creepy chiller. Director Siddons and writer Lucy Catherine just barely squeeze a feature film out of their idea of a haunted 15-year-old girl (Barden) who seems to be going round the bend.

Nicely shot in widescreen on locations near Bristol, the story focuses on Marie, living with her mother (Marshall), who is forever renovating their falling-apart home, and next door to Filthy (Curran), whom locals believe did away with his wife. He has a sensitive, six-year-old son, Shaun, who accompanies his father, who seems to do little but poach rabbits and deer from the local woods, on hunting trips that only serve to scare the boy.

Meantime, Marie, who sets out for school but never seems to go there, has a hideout in the woods, where she hangs rhombic symbols she calls starcatchers, which 'stop the Devil entering the land of the living'.

When the boy dies suddenly while Marie is babysitting - his father sees an image of him in place of the deer he's about to shoot, everyone's world implodes. And it turns out that Marie's home life is not what we have been led to believe.

Neither fish not fowl, the film seems much, much longer than its 82 minutes, especially with novice director Siddons holding scenes far too long, and repetitive shots of Marie running into the woods. It will try your patience to snapping point waiting in vain for something to happen, until all is admittedly revealed and rounded off at the end.

Acting is a little sticky, although Barden, the rude schoolgirl from Tamara Drewe, has an attractive sincerity that should stand her in good stead in films better than this one.

David Quinlan

UK 2011. UK Distributor: Verve. Colour by Panalux.
82 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.

Review date: 06 Aug 2012