Taking the now common paranormal investigation film to a higher level is difficult, especially with the overused tropes of disembodied footsteps, slamming doors and shaky camera work. Fortunately, Unnuap Taarnerpaaffini (When the Darkness Comes) broaches the subject with a subdued, but suspenseful, approach that will draw in even the most jaded horror fan.
Tucked away in a sleepy and snowbound Greenlandic town, Minik (Qillannguaq Berthelsen) is listless and everyone notices. His best friend, the over-confident Hans (Martin Brandt), forces him to go to a party where it becomes apparent that Minik is licking his wounds after the sting of a romantic rejection. Determined to find some excitement, Hans suggests they do something like explore a haunted house, and a fellow party-goer just happens to gives them a hot tip on a mysterious house in the neighbourhood. After doing some research, the guys set out to spend the night in the abandoned home to document any spectral activity, only to find that they should have been more careful about what they wished for.
Director Malik Kleist could have gone the found footage route with this film, but thankfully he doesn’t. Instead we are treated to a simple, but sophisticated, horror about a haunted house that feels fresh. This is due mostly to the low-key performances from Berthelsen and Brandt. The dynamic between Minik and Hans seems like a real friendship, they bicker like an old couple which brings levity to their deadpan delivery.
The other factor that contributes to the film’s success is the folklore behind the hauntings. Even in their youth, the main characters are still familiar with their ancestral traditions and Inuit culture, without the story becoming pedantic or contrived. It leaves us with a refreshingly modern genre film that doesn’t alienate the actors or the viewer. Kleist’s film also leaves room for some well-placed special effects with J-horror influences. They make for some great jump scares that truly surprises amidst the slow reveals.
I highly recommend Unnuap Taarnerpaaffini (When the Darkness Comes) for anyone who enjoys paranormal investigation tales, slow burn horrors that ramp up without notice, or just a good old urban legend in a not so urban setting.
Friday, October 16, 10:45 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Tickets information can be found at the imagineNATIVE website.