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Monday, November 2, 2020

From ‘The Strangers’ to ‘The Dark and the Wicked’, the Bleak History of Bryan Bertino’s Films

Filmmaker Bryan Bertino made it clear right out of the gate that he was uninterested in happy endings or tidy explanations. Shaking audiences to their core with a disturbingly bleak entry in home invasion horror, Bertino’s debut set the tone for all of his subsequent releases. His distinct brand of horror explores the darkest, most brutal aspects of humanity, and the genre aspect often serves as a catalyst.

In The Strangers, a couple facing the dissolution of their relationship had to fight for their lives to discover what they mean to each other. In his latest, the nihilistic The Dark and the Wicked, a family converges to grieve their dying father only to find evil has taken root. It’s in the space left by adult children that long ago drifted from their parents that allowed the darkness to creep, making for one of the most emotionally challenging and terrifying viewing experiences.

Written and directed by Bertino, the film stars Marin Ireland, Michael Abbott Jr., Xander Berkeley, Lynn Andrews, Julie Oliver-Touchstone, Tom Nowicki, and Ella Ballentine. RLJE Films releases The Dark and the Wicked in theaters, digital, and VOD on November 6, 2020. In celebration, we look back at Bertino’s history of grim horror.


The Strangers (2008)

Horror Sequels

After a long day at a friend’s wedding reception, James Hoyt (Scott Speedman) and Kristen McKay (Liv Tyler) return to James’ secluded childhood home tired and somber. Palpable tension hangs in the air; Kristen rejected James’ marriage proposal at the wedding. James asks a friend to pick him up in the morning, but before he can get through the night, a woman knocks on the door. It sparks a harrowing fight for survival as three masked strangers descend on the house, toying with their prey in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse.

From the outset, Bertino’s debut establishes a somber tone. This isn’t a happy couple in love, but one reaching critical mass. Enter the three masked strangers. The eerie way they lurk in the background sends chills down your spine, but not as much as their motive: “Because you were home.” There’s no glimmer of hope for James and Kristen, and no identities for the killers either. Not much is scarier than knowing they’re still free to slay again. And they will.


Mockingbird (2014)

Bertino’s sophomore effort marks his most polarizing in style and plot. The found footage film, set in 1995, follows three converging plotlines that see its characters given a camera and instructions never to stop filming. At first, the mysterious instructions indicate they’re part of some contest or show. Tom (Todd Stashwick) is a family man interested in capturing memories of his family on camera. Beth (Alexandra Lydon) is a bored and lonely college student that sees the camera as a means to appease her boredom. Leonard (Barak Hardley) still lives at home with mom and sees this as an opportunity to make a lot of money, and dons a clown costume to set himself apart. The more the different groups embrace the task, the more they realize something is off. Then they learn that if they stop for any reason, someone will die.

As with The Strangers, there’s unhappiness among many of the characters before their plight gets introduced. Bertino wrings a lot of tension from scenes as the scenario grows more precarious, building to a grim and shocking twist finale.


The Monster (2016)

With The Monster, Bertino returned to traditional filmmaking to tackle a creature feature. Or rather, an estranged mother/daughter relationship thanks to mom’s alcoholism and abusive ways. Ten-year-old Lizzy (Ella Ballentine) is tired of taking care of her out of control mother Kathy (Zoe Kazan) and demands that she be taken to live with dad straightaway. It’s the middle of the night, and Kathy crashes into a large animal in the middle of the road, leaving her injured, and the car stalled. The pair soon realizes they’re not alone; something is stalking in the woods and sees them as new prey.

Continuing his trend, The Monster doesn’t shy away from humanity’s darkest impulses. Kathy is a terrible mother, and she knows it. As her bond with her daughter is further tested by a slew of attacks by the creature, it creates an oppressive, despondent mood. Yet, amidst the unrelenting darkness, Bertino offers hope in the form of redemption and strength to overcome shortcomings.


The Dark and the Wicked (2020)

Bertino’s latest makes for his most polished and mature effort yet. The filmmaker is merciless toward his characters and the audience, delivering an onslaught of inescapable terror. Despite their mother’s requests to stay away, Louise (Marin Ireland) and Michael (Michael Abbott Jr.) return to their childhood home to say goodbye to their ailing father. Shortly after, they realize they should have listened to mom when more tragedy befalls them, and waking nightmares reign supreme. The siblings struggle through the guilt that comes with the inability to remember the last time they called home and the remorse that their mother has been left alone to care for her dying husband. Death looms large, a massive presence with no straightforward guide.

Bertino uses horror to accentuate that guilt and the vacuum between family members that have drifted apart. More importantly, the filmmaker knows how to create an insidious, unsettling evil that will embed itself deep under your skin and leave you searching for the light switch. It’s as terrifying as it is personal.

Look for The Dark and the Wicked in theaters, digital, and VOD on November 6, 2020.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/sponsored/3638870/strangers-dark-wicked-bleak-history-bryan-bertinos-films/

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