Writer Teresa Sutherland (Midnight Mass, The Wind) jumps into the director’s chair for the first time with the horror film Lovely, Dark, and Deep. Lennon, played by Georgina Campbell (Barbarian) is a new back-country ranger who finds herself alone in the wilderness as she searches for people in need of assistance; a vocation largely influenced by a tragic incident from her past. There’s been an increase in missing people as of late, and Lennon begins to lose herself in the middle of nowhere as this recent incident somehow become intertwined with her childhood trauma.
Barbarian was one of the best kept horror surprises of 2022, so Seeing Georgina Campbell in a new horror film was all that was needed to entice excitement. Although, Campbell also stars in the sequel Bird Box: Barcelona currently streaming on Netflix, which has generally unfavorable reviews. Lovely, Dark, and Deep seems like it’s trying to say something about being in an isolated area, away from the city and its people, and essentially losing your mind with dizzying cinematography. However, the film is a slow crawl into a baffling labyrinth of the subconscious.
Portuguese cinematographer Rui Pocas is notable when the film first begins because of how he approaches filming the unrelenting wilderness. The title card sequence, filled with mountains and upside down trees set to a slow descent into forthcoming madness, intrigues the audience from the start. However, this technique is utilized so often in the film that it becomes aggravating. You can only have so many rotating and upside down shots of trees before it gets redundant.
Trying to explain what the film is about is also borderline impossible. Lennon spends most of the film leaving her post and not listening to instructions. The closest camp on the other side of the park is led by another ranger named Jackson, played by Nick Blood (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), whom you can’t really decipher whether he’s just trying to be friendly or constantly flirting with Lennon.
Played by Wai Ching Ho (Madame Gao in Netflix’s Daredevil), lead ranger Zhang is also a key supporting character. Zhang begins as a form of authority that spirals into a protective figure for Lennon. Spontaneously appearing during the finale as a savior, with a motivation that doesn’t make a lick of sense, Ho’s character arc is the most confusing.
The film’s portrayal of Lennon makes it difficult for the viewer to care about her situation. Chewing on hangnails until her finger bleeds, and obviously being more comfortable alone, Lennon still seems affected by her past, which turned her into a quiet person who’s awkward around other people. While searching in the forest, she trips and hits her head on a rock.
The last half hour of the film is Lennon running around in this false dimension that is somewhere between being all in her head and actually taking place in reality. She revisits the most devastating moments from her past, as she’s thrust down hallways that are walled off as soon as she turns around, but she’s also somehow wandering around the actual wilderness at the same time. It is both completely bizarre and as confusing as it sounds.
Clocking in at under 90 minutes, Lovely, Dark, and Deep still feels unbearably long. Its foreshadowing doesn’t lead to anything remotely relevant, with ending that is just as insignificant as the rest of the film.
With the very first frame of the film opening with a John Muir quote (“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind, and find my soul.”), Lovely, Dark, and Deep knows how to thrust the audience into unshackled insanity but forgets to throw a life-saving buoy to its witnesses, resulting in the viewer helplessly drowning in twisty and meaningless drivel.
- Cinematography is often times beautiful.
- Performances are decent.
- Slow-moving with no payoff.
- Repetitive camera tricks.
- Horror with no meaning that messes with your head with no explanation.