Film review: The Dark Hour

April 25, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Film reviews 

darkhourI picked the claustrophobic The Dark Hour up from a bargain bin in HMV, based on user comments on the Quiet Earth website – a wonderful source of all things apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic – comments suggesting it was an undiscovered gem from Spain, a country that’s been at the forefront of fantastic films over the last few years. How right those comments are.

Nine survivors of what might have been a biological and/or nuclear holocaust are locked up inside the ruined planet. Their lives run like clockwork, ruled by restricted movement, rationing of food, power, and hope.  Hazardous missions to forage for new supplies of food and medication form part of the survivalist routine. Outside the sealed sanctuary toxic ghouls (possibly zombies and referred to as Strangers) roam myriad corridors dripping in filth and disease. But there’s more to the subterranean inhabitants than slow decaying remnants of society – for one hour every day, ‘the cold hour’, the Invisibles roam the shadowy environment. Freezing air, wood and metal as they travel the length and breadth of the sanctuary, the survivors lock themselves into their rooms for fear of encountering these ethereal predators.

Terrorised by two types of evil and imprisoned beneath the surface by the fallout, the nine survivors convincingly play out strained relationships, their quirks and bigotries manifesting in treachery and a desperate fight for survival. The youngest survivor, a boy named Jesus records a video diary showing us a child’s fears of this awful world he has been born into, and through this young voice, debut director Quiroga manages to successfully create, maintain and manipulate a tense atmosphere of dread and anticipation, of love and hate, innocence and strength that is gripping from the first minute to the last.

And that last scene! A truly surprise ending, and you can’t say that of many a film. Maybe you’ll love it or hate it. I thought it was perfect. Either way, this single awesome scene provides answers to what’s gone before and takes the story into new realms even as it ends.  An emotional, savage, and wholly original sf/horror hybrid, The Dark Hour is recommended without reservation.

The Dark Hour, 2006

Director: Elio Quiroga; Writer: Elio Quiroga

[This review was originally published in the Easter 09 edition of Prism, the Newsletter of the British Fantasy Society]