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LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP: A Journey into Cosmic Horror

A close up of a women's face and she looks scared
Image courtesy of XYZ Films

By Amylou Ahava

In LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP (Teresa Sutherland's directorial debut) the wilderness becomes a character in its own right, as it appears draped in secrecy and beckons us to delve deeper.

Inspired by the final stanza of Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," Sutherland injects cosmic horror into the familiar landscape, weaving a twisted and haunting psychological narrative that lures us into the endless wilderness to get lost.

As we dive into the story, we're met with a chilling opening that sets the stage for the eerie adventure ahead. Amidst the vast wilderness, a lone figure ignores the calls of a CB radio, and instead leaves behind a haunting message which says that he “owes the land a body." It's a stark reminder of the enigmatic secrets hidden within the forest's depths and which are waiting to be uncovered.

So, intrepid viewer, lace up your boots and prepare to immerse yourself in the haunting allure of LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP. With its captivating imagery and mysterious atmosphere, this story combines folk horror and true crime podcasts to create a journey that promises to lead you through the tangled undergrowth of both the human psyche and the uncanny wilderness.

The story centers around how quickly people can vanish into the wilderness. The news reports and podcasts tell stories of how people are there one minute and then gone the next (but without their shoes). Throughout the film, the warning of "take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, and kill nothing but time" serves as a mantra for the rules of the woods, but unfortunately, the forest does not play by the same rules.

Early in the film a woman goes missing in the woods and a search party quickly forms to find her. The trees soon echo with calls of her name, but these cries begin to mix with unanswered calls from years ago. The woods echo with lostness as too many people never answer those calls. The film explores the question, what if people don't get lost in the woods because of inexperience or human error, but because the forest chose to take that person?

An image of a tent drenched in darkness
Image courtesy of XYZ Films

In the heart of this vast and endless forest, we meet our main character, Lennon. Portrayed by the talented Georgina Campbell (Barbarian), Lennon stands as a solitary ranger as she traverses the landscape and her own past. It is clear Lennon is pleased to have the ranger job. It's a dream come true to hike all day and listen to podcasts. As she strolls through the woods all the natural beauty bombards her eyes while depressing stories of disappearance invade her ears.

This juxtaposition of pleasant sights and horrifying stories creates an unbalanced feeling for both Lennon and the viewers. As Lennon explores deeper into the woods, the line between reality and nightmare blurs like the mist that hangs heavy among the trees. Time bends and twists, leading Lennon on a journey through the darkest recesses of her own mind.

Campbell's performance as Lennon is nothing short of mesmerizing, as she captures the character's descent into madness with conviction and nuance. She navigates the treacherous terrain of the forest with the skill of a seasoned explorer, and she draws us deeper into the darkness with every step.

But it's the visuals that truly elevate LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP to new heights. Cinematographer Rui Poças masterfully captures the haunting beauty of the forest, juxtaposing its endless expanse with the creeping sense of dread that permeates every frame. It's a visual feast for the senses and draws us deeper into the darkness with each passing moment.

Sutherland's direction might be a bit overly ambitious. Yet, amidst the uncertainty, the cinematography shines like a beacon, capturing the haunting beauty of the woods while sending shivers down our spines with its eerie atmosphere. Every frame is infused with a sense of foreboding as if the forest itself is alive with malevolent intent.

The diegetic and non-diegetic sounds crash against each other in dueling and noisy crescendos that show the deafening effects of nature, but also the ominous tone of the situation. Rushing water, thundering wind, and even the creaking of the trees all surround Lennon and let her simultaneously realize she is alone but also very much not alone.

As Lennon's journey unfolds, we're reminded of the age-old adage: "Not all who wander are lost." In the case of LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP however, it's the wandering that leads us into the heart of the unknown, where fear and fascination collide in a whirlwind of supernatural intrigue. With its captivating performances, stunning cinematography, and spine-tingling atmosphere, it's a journey that will leave you spellbound from start to finish. So grab your flashlight and prepare to get lost in the darkness. You never know what you might find lurking in the shadows and we have miles to go before we sleep.

LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP arrives on VOD nationwide on Thursday, February 22nd.


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