Dark Nature Review – 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival

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CONTENT DISCLAIMER: Dark Nature and this review deal with topics of domestic violence

The first horror feature for Berkley Brady, dark nature it’s like standing in a swimming pool with your toes barely touching the bottom, knowing you can’t swim. I can’t think of a better way to explain this raw, dark exploration of trauma and violence, horror in more ways than one.

Joy (Hannah Emily Anderson) is a survivor of domestic violence. In a heartbreaking shift from romance to violence, the film’s opening plunges the viewer into trauma as we see the very real physical danger Joy finds herself in. Luckily, the focus of this film isn’t on finding the courage to leave, but rather on what happens after. Having left the abusive relationship, Joy no longer knows who she is and must relearn how to be herself.

Experiencing flashbacks of the abuse of PTSD, her best friend Carmen (Madison Walsh) encourages her to go on a healing retreat with a psychologist in mind. The trek through the Rocky Mountains is led by Dr. Dunnley (Kyra Harper), a specialist in helping trauma survivors deal with their demons. But this is not an individual experience. Instead, Joy joins other women who are also struggling with PTSD and violence.

While the film does a phenomenal job of making trauma and the past a monster that must be constantly fought, women have more to fear than they realize. As Joy begins the exercises outlined by Dr. Dunnley, she begins to think her ex-boyfriend is following them. Then the women also find abandoned items from former hikers on the way, hear strange noises, and begin to share a strange nightmare. Quickly, the flashbacks become overwhelming for the women, and as danger looms and more people get hurt, it’s clear that they’re not just fighting an internal battle.

A fairly straightforward survival horror movie, dark nature takes flight when its protagonists start reliving the past again and are pushed to the brink. Surviving a mysterious danger in the wild is hard enough, throwing in debilitating flashbacks that leave you breathless, and fighting anything that says “roll up and die” is a whole other level. Fear is an emotion that, when played well in horror movies, grips audiences. Add to that the anxiety and PTSD and for a survivor like me, I also found myself holding my breath.

dark nature is a visceral experience in the best and worst ways. A job to do if you’ve experienced trauma in the same way, the way Berkley Brady wrote and captured episodes of PTSD on screen and the way actresses portray them feels all too real. It’s raw and unsettling, with a shifting perspective on reality that adds chaos to the trauma. If there’s one movie this year that made me want to get out of my skin, it’s this one. A true testament to Brady’s understanding that horror is sometimes real experience and fruitful ground for cultivating a larger narrative. Not to mention a twisted final act best left untouched.

dark nature screened at the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival.

dark nature

8/10

TL;DR

dark nature is a visceral experience in the best and worst ways. A job to do if you’ve experienced trauma in the same way, the way Berkley Brady wrote and captured episodes of PTSD on screen and the way actresses portray them feels all too real. It’s raw and unsettling, with a shifting perspective on reality that adds chaos to the trauma. If there’s one movie this year that made me want to get out of my skin, it’s this one.

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