Out Of Darkness (2024) – Film Review
Director: Andrew Cumming
Cast: Chuku Modu, Kit Young, Safia Oakley-Green
By Robert White
How do we envision the prehistoric age? Well, you cannot go too far wrong from the classic, comical animation of The Flintstones, depicting a family of cavemen who suffer from the frequent but inconsequential quarrels and squabbles of modern life.
The sitcom’s enduring popularity stems from the relatable disputes between the Flintstone and Rubble family, which demonstrate that there are more similarities with our ancestors than you might at first think.
Yet Andrew Cumming’s debut feature film, Out of Darkness, is far from the yabba dabba doo of Fred Flintstone. Indeed, the similarities between the two appear to be few and far between.
Originally named ‘The Origin’, the film takes its audience back 45,000 years to the prehistoric Stone Age period. A tribe of six take their chances of finding a new home in an unfamiliar, seemingly inhospitable land. But as their adventure draws them deep into the landscape, the clan begins to succumb to a creature native to the area. They fear for their survival.
“Powerful display of acting”
But Beyah, played superbly by Safia Oakley-Green, deals with issues well above her pay grade and rank in the clan – especially given she was picked up by the tribe on their journey and labelled a “stray” for it.
In a powerful display of acting, which led to Oakley-Green winning the British Independent Film Award for Breakthrough Performance, Beyah continually proves her worth as the dangers and horrors of the new land begin to unfold.
Yet, despite her ability, she remains bottom of the pile in the clan. Whilst, the leader, Adem, played by Chuku Modu, sees value in keeping Beyah close, others do not. Most famous for his role as the Dothraki warrior Aggo in Game of Thrones, Modu has previous experience portraying nomadic fighters.
He is protective over his first-born son, Heron (Luna Mwezi) as well as his pregnant wife Ave (Iola Evans) and takes his role of head of the tribe sternly. Safe to say, he is hardly Fred Flintstone.
Travelling with Adem and his family is the group’s elder, the superstitious Odal (Arno Lüning), who is most sceptical of Beyah. The final member is the indecisive, reserved second-in-command Geirr, played by Kit Young.
Together, they experience the spine-chilling fears of the unknown as they fight for their survival against the creature in the darkness. And it is sickening. The horrors of violence, cannibalism and tribalism of this time certainly come through.
Ruth Greenberg’s scriptwriting is excellent and, coupled with Cumming’s direction, Out of Darkness captivates the eeriness and anxiety of the wilderness in the search to secure a safe home.
While there are plenty of films on prehistoric times, not least the comedic Ice Age franchise, the genre of primal Britain remains relatively unexplored. Out of Darkness does emulate some aspects of previous cavemen films, such as the fictional language and adventure in A Quest for Fire, but the fantasy elements of this 1981 adaptation means there are unique components to Cummings’ feature debut.
The plot offers a gruesome perspective into the savagery of our ancestors. As members of the tribe are picked off by the inhabitants of the foreign land, the barbarity towards each other within the group begins. The tribalism between the clan and their description of a “monster” and “demon” turns into a battle between one another.
But the powerful cyclical structure demonstrates that, in the end, the group are not that dissimilar from the native inhabitants. And in that sense, much like the parallels between modern society and the Flintstones, it appears there are more similarities between us and our ancestors than first meets the eye. Out of Darkness is simultaneously a chilling horror film and an instructive interpretation of human nature.
The mystery which surrounds the native “evil, bloodthirsty demon” gives way to a wider narrative on society, both contemporary and prehistoric. It is ambitious, but it certainly works.
For the true horror lovers, it perhaps could be slightly disappointing in lacking a final punch. But drawing similarities between the interactions of cavemen and humans in the 21st century is certainly intriguing. After all, we are just like the Flintstones.