Color, 2009, 79m.
Directed by Marc de Launay
Starring Vanya Eadie, Niall Greig Fulton, Imogen Toner, James Bryce, Joanna Miller, Doreen McGillivray
Troma (Blu-Ray/DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9) / DD2.0
At a remote lakeside home, a middle-aged woman is brutally murdered by a normal-looking assailant who then calmly goes about his business tidying up after the scene. Unfortunately his murderous agenda is cut short when another unseen intruder stabs him, leaving both bodies behind. Shortly afterwards, vacationing McKenzie (Fulton) and Jane (Eadie) head to the same sparsely populated area, which is populated by oddball characters including an obsessed entymologist (Bryce) and a frizzy-haired tarot card reader (McGillivray). As it turns out, the murdered woman from the opening was the family grandmother, and now her house is destined to be the scene of more murderous mayhem. Multiple killers and a mounting body count mean the bloodshed can only stay hidden for so long, with our heroine, armed only with a crossbow, eventually fending for her life and guarding her two children.
If that plot synopsis sounds more than a tad familiar, it's because this Scottish shocker is basically a remake of Mario Bava's Twitch of the Death Nerve dressed up in eco-horror trappings. Rather than a competition over real estate, this time the murders are heavily implied to be the work of mother nature driving people to kill themselves as a result of their abuse to the planet. Otherwise this follows the Bava film almost identically, from the structure of the opening double-kill sequence to the murder of a sexy blonde heading out for a lakeside stroll (clothed this time, however), right down to the exact same twist ending. A lot of mags have gotten plenty of mileage out of firing shaky accusations at the first two Friday the 13th films of aping Bava's classic, but this one is far more obvious in its inspiration. However, while the story may be familiar, director de Launay manages to still pull this off thanks to the novel decision to shoot this at a truly gorgeous location in Scotland, which results in some wonderfully atmospheric widescreen landscapes and a truly unnerving sense of isolation that never lets up. Acting is a bit shaky at times, but Eadie holds her own as the story's "lone girl" fighting to hold her family together in the middle of escalating insanity.
Dark Nature was shot on HD video and released by Troma on both Blu-Ray and DVD, though the former is really the way to go. The image quality is limited at times by the video source, but on the whole it's quite attractive and comparable to the presentation of the better-looking Blu-Ray episodes of the BBC's Torchwood. The two-channel stereo soundtrack isn't especially active given the very quiet nature of the film, but it's good enough to get the job done.
The audio commentary by the director (and presumably the producer, though he's uncredited) covers most of the usual production bases including location scouting for the perfect lakehouse, finding the right actors for the roles, and some of the film's influences (Long Weekend and Lucio Fulci get name checked, but Bava doesn't; go figure). A half-hour featurette gathers together some behind-the-scenes footage, including a few glimpses of how some of the limited but effective gore moments were achieved. There's also a twenty-minute interview with Eadie, who talks about getting into character as a strong-willed maternal figure pushed to the breaking point, as well as the usual batch of Troma trailers. By far the most interesting extra is "The Last Noel," a funny and fairly twisted de Launay short film in which Santa Claus faces off against a doubting youngster toting a shotgun on Christmas Eve. All in all, it's a respectably stuffed package for a flawed but interesting stab at Scottish horror that will provoke more than a slight sense of deja vu among Eurocult enthusiasts.