Lovely, Dark, and Deep

After Barbarian and T.I.M., actor Georgina Campbell is quickly building a reputation as a contemporary scream queen. Her latest turn in Teresa Sutherland’s feature-length debut Lovely, Dark, and Deep is supposed to add another notch in her belt but, unfortunately, the film doesn’t do her any favours and vice versa.

Campbell plays Lennon, a newly appointed back country national park ranger who dedicates her livelihood to her work. She’s encouraged by her superior (Wai Ching Ho, last heard in Turning Red), and is hastily assigned a patrol station infamous for disappearances. As Lennon becomes more acquainted with the area, the new job connects to her traumatic past in a way that she anticipates but, nevertheless, the supernatural surroundings twist her reality in unpredictable and disturbing ways. 

Sutherland, previously a writer on Netflix’s Midnight Mass, shows an interesting knack for environmental horror. The best bits borrow a perspective commonly seen in first-person video games: the vastness of the forrest is interpreted through a narrow lens as we only see what Lennon’s flashlight sees. Festival audiences (including last year’s Toronto After Dark patrons) probably received the best experience of Sutherland’s movie considering it feels as if everything is closing in around Lennon and the audience. 

But then, after a promising start, Lovely, Dark, and Deep starts disappointing. Sutherland breaks up the tension too often with cheap walkie-talkie static jump scares, leading to a collection of conventional tricks to freak out movie goers. It also doesn’t seem as though Sutherland (who also serves as the screenwriter) has a good grasp on what’s driving this story, conveniently alternating between Lennon’s psychological fear and unseen evil that would usually inhabit haunted houses. The writer/director gambles by choosing whichever purpose will elicit the “best scare” instead of prioritizing her story or characters. These distractions could also explain why Campbell, working as best as she can with underwritten material, eventually starts reading as a blank slate.

Lovely, Dark, and Deep isn’t short on skin-crawling imagery and scenarios that will make viewers uneasy but, much like bring lost in the woods, the audience is being led to nowhere in particular and it all starts looking the same.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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