Lovely, Dark, and Deep ★★★ 3/4 Fantasia International Film Festival 2023

Lovely, Dark, and Deep ★★★ 3/4 Fantasia International Film Festival 2023

Teresa Sutherlands‘ impactful feature debut, Lovely, Dark, and Deep, takes audiences on a journey of isolation. An impressive psychological horror that carefully creeps on you as you try to figure out what is reality.

Lennon (Georgina Campbell) is granted a long-awaited position as a park ranger in an isolated outpost. Immediately, the woods tower ominous and great and are strangely shrouded in mystery and conspiracy theories pertaining to bizarre disappearances. Once Lennon settles into this minimalist life, visions quickly manifest, blending the past, present, and perhaps something even more sinister lurking in the serene, writhing landscape.

Forests can be one heck of a gorgeous place to visit; however, if you become lost within that gorgeous scenery, the beauty soon vanishes from it, and fear of knowing too many dark stories of what happens to lost souls in such places comes to the surface and set camp deep within your mind. First-time filmmaker Teresa Sutherland takes full advantage of this natural fear with her film Lovely, Dark, and Deep. There has been a clear inspiration from stories and theories of what happens to those unlucky enough to get lost in forests, never to return. Sutherland ensures we are in for one almighty uncomfortable experience.

Sutherland drops many little hints throughout Lovely, Dark, and Deep as to what her mystery is actually about. It gets to the point where you think she is revelling in these little clues, leading you into a false sense of security before swinging you into a 180 and continuing onwards and repeating. Her smartly written script places us directly into Lennon’s shoes at the beginning of the film. We know little of her, so we can only go off of what she is seeing. By having us almost disorientated from the start, she has us in her grip as she merrily takes us on her mysterious trail.

What strikes more here is that you could easily remove the more graphic moments within the film, which would still be as effective. This is an exploration of getting lost in your grief and finding yourself consumed by the dauntingly endless solitude that nature provides. Humans are not meant to be alone in such environments anymore, and Sutherland tells that portion of her story exceptionally well.

Make no mistake; this is practically a one-woman show from Georgina Campbell, with the rest of the ensemble purposefully residing in the outskirts of the film—a woman who is so wrapped up in grief that all normal processes seem to elude her. Campbell gives a lot to the role and provides a very strong performance. As Lennon becomes more frayed in the film’s final third, we ache for her, rising to an excruciating level in that final scene.

As Lovely, Dark, and Deep ramps up the tension of Lennon’s spiralling mindset, it also racks up the horror factor, giving us moment after moment of disturbing, nightmarish imagery. In fact, she actually moves takes on genres as the film progresses, starting off the film as a drama about making amends for someone you have lost. It verges on a thriller as the twists and turns come Lennon’s way before finally settling on mystery folk horror as all seems to be lost for the ranger.

We already knew Teresa Sutherland had some mighty writing chops, but with Lovely, Dark, and Deep, we see the full breadth of her talents. As a filmmaker, she has one hell of an exciting future in store for herself.

The Fantasia International Film Festival takes place in Montreal from July 20th through August 9th.

For more of our coverage of Fantasia 2023, please see below:

Mami Wata

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