Coming home in the dark 2021 Movie Review πŸ‘

2 min read

One Line Review:  Coming Home in the Dark explores how the darkness of the past is not erased and returns when you least expect it.

 Coming Home in the Dark
(2021) on IMDb

Youtube Trailer Coming home in the dark

Starring: Daniel Gillies, Matthias Luafutu

Director: James Ashcoft 

Release Date: 1 October 2021


The New Zealand film Coming Home in the Dark (2021), James Ashcroft’s first work, starts off intensely: a wealthy family (father, mother, and two teenage sons) enjoying a road trip in the countryside. During a picnic, they are interrupted by a couple of strangers with weapons and a peculiar attitude. The confusion does not take long to clear up, although the fear continues: they are being assaulted. Your vehicle and some belongings are the main targets of criminals. The leader of the thugs, Mandrake (Daniel Gillies, memorable) – unlike his silent partner, Tubs (Matthias Luafutu), is not minded and exudes some charisma despite being a bastard – announces that they will retire.Β 

Plot Analysis

The terror seems to end for the family … until one of the sons refers to their father (Erik Thomson) by his nickname: Hoagie , short for Hoogenraad. This draws the attention of the assailants, the last name is familiar to them. Another vehicle is approaching, the assault that had not had major setbacks up to that moment is complicated. Once they prevent the newcomers from noticing something strange, Mandrake assures the family that they will regret not taking that opportunity to fight back. And boy they will.Β 

Coming Home in the Dark soon turns brutal, a demonstration of the cold blood with which humans can act. The initial confusion of the family before the assault returns in the worst way, now it is linked to violence and tragedy. 

The turn

Coming Home in the Dark turns into a very different road trip, the criminals take command, and little by little it is suggested that their attack has another motivation. Could it change the whole meaning? Could we be facing a revenge thriller? Ashcroft’s film aligns with those stories where it is clear that the victims – in this case specifically the father, Hoaggie – hide something murky about their past that their loved ones are unaware of. Even his wife Jill (Miriama McDowell) has no idea why her life has just been completely ruined.

It is fascinating how a tough social issue that has been extensively addressed in the film is turned around: the systematic abuse that occurs in boarding schools (and schools) against students. If movies like If…. (1969) –or its contemporary derivation in a comic and fantastic key Slaughterhouse Rulez (2018) -, take us inside this type of school, Coming Home in the Dark presents what was the fate of two young people who experienced the abuse in their own flesh happened decades ago (in the 80s) in a New Zealand men’s boarding school.  

Did you tie the dots? Two of the violated boys, belittled by authority figures – even potential victims of sexual abuse – are consequently marginalized adults in the present. They steal cars and are capable of murder. In contrast, we understand that Hoaggie has had a long and successful career as a teacher, although at one time he was up close to the harsh reality of boarding school.

The attempt to create a pattern interrupt

Coming Home in the Dark is still a genre film, its execution is that of the classic exponent of crime or revenge full of setbacks: the victims try to take advantage of any opportunity to fight back; innocent people’s blood is spilled, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. In addition to the ingredients that usually leave you frozen, in a good dramatic sense, here linked to the horror that was lived in boarding school, still present decades later. 

The film attempts to subvert the known expectations of this type of genre film. This makes it anticlimactic, without any Asian-style shock. Although it seems to go that way, it is not about settling a specific dispute. The teacher’s background is more complex, addressing issues of complicity, inherent in any systemic problem. 


Coming home in the dark Review
Coming home in the dark Review

Developed over a few hours taking as a starting point the coincidence of two perspectives (trauma and guilt), Coming Home in the Dark explores how the darkness of the past is not erased and returns when you least expect it. Even if, at least physically, its representation (the boarding school) is literally in ruins. Only they know what happened there. More interesting products in its themes, than effective in the execution of its climax.

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