Out of Darkness

(Andrew Cumming, UK, 2022)

BY MARGARET BARTON-FUMO | February 9, 2024
A girl in furs hold a manmade spear.

Clocking in at a swift 87 minutes, Andrew Cumming’s feature debut is a slick, beautiful genre piece best suited for the big screen. Partially reminiscent of Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Quest for Fire (1981)—another prehistoric thriller introducing a made-up language—Out of Darkness is set 45,000 years ago, during the Old Stone Age, when survival was a massive feat. Shot in the vast Highlands of Scotland, the film follows six nomads searching desperately for food and shelter while a mysterious entity hunts them down in the dark. Led by the cocksure Adem (Chuku Modu) and his timid younger brother Geirr (Kit Young), the travelers also consist of the elder Odal (Arno Lüning), Adem’s very pregnant partner Ave (Iola Evans), Adem’s son Heron (Luna Mwezi), and the “stray” Beyah (Safia Oakley-Green), our feisty final girl.

Tensions among the group surface as they struggle to seek sustenance and quickly become prey themselves—and the mystic Odal begins to question Adem’s wavering authority. The identity of their terrifying aggressor also remains unclear throughout the first two-thirds of the film, though Odal and Ave insist they are being stalked by a demon. Cumming does a fine job of building suspense in a series of bleak settings, using mostly natural light and plenty of eerie sound effects while allowing only quick glimpses of the purported creature as it stalks through the forest. Cinematographer Ben Fordesman expertly lenses the picture, with wide establishing shots of the group’s campfire crackling in the middle of an unnerving darkness. Fast-moving traveling shots add excitement to tense cat-and-mouse scenes, while 360-degree pans portray each character in nimbly choreographed demonstrations of fear.

In the darkness we see a human figure and his torch.

Due to the efforts of a number of craftsmen, Out of Darkness is an exceptionally smooth low-budget production. Building upon studies conducted by expert consultants like the Paleolithic Archaeologist Dr. Rob Dinnis, Cumming’s crew has created a convincing milieu of a small Stone Age community. Early responses to the film have included dismissive pokes at the characters’ “urban hipster” style, with short (mussed) haircuts, intricately carved jewelry, and fur cloaks, but research appears to back their fashion (and mixed races) as historically legit. It’s an exciting sight to take in—while employing some suspension of disbelief—providing a new approach to a classic genre. The choice for the characters to speak in a faux language, with subtitles for translation, is another bold move rendered successful by the actors’ ability to make the words sound convincing.

Above all else, Out of Darkness is an effective horror movie that benefits greatly from a few scenes of bloody violence. The audience’s attention might lull without them, given the inherent limitations of a minimal plot. Oakley-Green holds her own as Beyah, and her character’s evolution from a meek teen to a toughened huntress is compelling (if not run-of-the-mill), but the crux of the film is in the chase. The eye-opening denouement, which takes place in a labyrinthine cave system, is appropriately brisk, with selective flashes of lightning and a grim final face-off. Unfortunately, it’s also here where the plot’s twist starts to unravel the film with some hefty moralizing and over-explanation.

As it turns out, Out of Darkness falters a bit in its ethical questions, which are all too familiar and heavy-handed. Beyah’s eventual realization that the aggressors may be “just like us” is a rather hackneyed generalization, as well as a broad attempt to place this prehistoric story within a contemporary lens. But twist included, the film is a promising, agile debut, and proof that Cumming has what it takes to spin a taut horror yarn. 🩸


is the host of “No Pussyfooting,” an online radio show on She is the editor of Paul Verhoeven: Interviews (UPM) and has contributed to Film Comment since 2006.

X: @MarBarFu

How to see Out of Darkness

After four canonical films and two offshoots, the indomitable series returns to glory with Prey.

Of the many recurring horror villains, Freddy Krueger is famously distinguished by his crispy face and razor claws, Jason Voorhees by his...

BY LAURA KERN  |  August 17, 2022

(Léa Mysius, France, 2022)

A witchy tale of time travel, young love, and sporty women, Léa Mysius’s sophomore feature is an entrancing puzzle film anchored by compelling performances.


(Andrzej Żuławski, Poland, 1972)

Andrzej Żuławski will be your guide through hell, giddy as Virgil his first day on the job. He conceived his second theatrical feature, 1972’s The Devil (aka Diabel), as a political allegory...

BY TOM PHELAN  |  December 30, 2023



(Victor Halperin, USA, 1933)

This pre-Code offering packs a lot of story into its typically brisk running time, with several plot threads weaving together a (not always successful) tapestry of spooky and criminal doings.


BY  ANN OLSSON  |  Month 00, 2021


The Keep

(Michael Mann, USA, 1983)

In what could be the fastest-resulting rape revenge movie, a drunken lout brutally forces himself on Ida, the young woman who doesn't return his affections, during a party over Labor Day.


BY  LAURA KERN  |  Month 00, 2021


We Need To Do Something

(Sean King O'Grady, USA, 2021)

Beast is a lot of movies in one package - fractured fairy tale, belated-coming-of-age story, psychological drama, regional horror film - but above all it's a calling card for its leading lady, Jessie Buckley.


BY  LAURA KERN  |  Month 00, 2021