From man to monster and back: Plot analysis of the film The Dark (2018) meaning of the film, explanation of the ending, similar movies.
Country: Austria, Canada
Genre: drama, thriller
Year of production: 2018
Directed by: Justin P. Lange, Clemens Hoefnagl
Actors: Nadia Alexander, Toby Nichols, Karl Markovich
tagline: “Your worst fear is your only hope”
The plot of The Dark contains an interesting, if not entirely new, idea about the transformation of a character who is a classic undead from horror films back into a human. Thanks to this, the picture in the course of the story turns from horror into a touching art-house drama.
What is the movie about
Let’s analyze the plot of the film “The Dark” and give an explanation to some details that could remain incomprehensible.
The role of Josef was played by Karl Markovich. Frame from the film.
At the beginning, we are shown a man who stops near a gas station somewhere in the countryside. He is clearly nervous. Taking the groceries, the man begins to examine the map. The seller understands that the buyer is interested in a place called the Devil’s Lair. It is located in the forest. According to the description of the seller, a terrible monster lives there, killing everyone who dares to set foot on its territory. Suddenly, the man sees a message being broadcast on the TV at the counter. A photo of the buyer is shown, it is said that this is a dangerous criminal. The man, realizing that the seller can turn him in, shoots him in the head with a pistol.
The criminal gets to the Devil’s Lair, where an abandoned house is located. He enters a room hung with scary drawings. The man hears a noise, and after a while he is attacked by a teenage girl with a disfigured face, similar to a dead man who has come to life. She pursues, kills the criminal with an ax, and then begins to eat his flesh. The answer is that this girl is the same monster that everyone in the district is afraid of. Her name is Mina. As the plot develops, we will be shown the backstory of this character.
Mina investigates her victim’s car and discovers a blind teenager, Alex, whose eyes have been mutilated by someone (probably by fire). It becomes clear that this is the work of a criminal killed by a girl, whose name is Josef. The guy constantly repeats his name and is very afraid of his anger. It seems that the maniac tortured Alex for a long time and thus accustomed him to complete obedience. So, the guy did not give himself away while in the car, because “being invisible to others” was one of Josef’s rules that must be strictly observed. Alex will tell Mina about all this later.
Nadia Alexander as Mina. Frame from the film.
A policeman comes to the house, looking for Josef, and sees the abandoned car of the criminal. The law enforcement officer finds Alex and begins to explore the rooms. Mina attacks him from the closet and kills him.
Realizing that there is no point in staying at the house, since soon other police and search teams will appear here, the girl takes the guy deeper into the forest. Before that, Alex asks to take him to Josef, but Mina says that the maniac is dead. Subsequently, the girl has to repeat this, because the intimidated guy does not fully believe in it. Alex says he knows the phone number. If you call him, Josef’s friends will come for him.
During the conversation, Mina swings an ax at Alex, but realizes that she does not want to kill him. She tells him about a terrible monster that lives in these forests, which is actually the girl herself. Alex is unimpressed by the story. He perceives Mina as a savior, able to hide him from other people until he returns to the previous state of affairs. This she does, hiding with him in an earthen cave. Mina scares off a search engine dog that has scented their trail.
Gradually, we are shown memories from the life of Mina, at that time an ordinary teenager. She paints a portrait of her dead father. A lover returns to her mother – Mina’s stepfather, whom she hates. Seeing this, the girl goes to her room and paints a completely different picture. On it is a terrible creature, similar to the one into which she herself will soon turn. The stepfather rapes the girl, probably with the tacit consent of the mother. One day, Mina fights back. However, she fails to defeat the villain and he beats his stepdaughter to a pulp. He buries her in the ground, but the girl rises from the grave. Mina copes with her mother with the help of an ax. The death of her stepfather remains behind the scenes, but the girl probably finished with him as well.
Alex is played by Toby Nichols. Frame from the film.
Waking up from a nightmare with another memory, the girl digs into Alex’s throat, but releases her grip. The guy notices that Mina’s initially cold fingers have become warmer. Coming out of the cave to get the phone, the girl takes out a lighter and touches the flame. Now it burns her – this has never happened before.
Mina, using Alex as bait, kills two members of the search party. The third runs towards the road and is hit by a car. Without finishing off the unfortunate man, Mina takes away his phone.
Alex dictates the number. Mina dials it on the extracted phone. However, it is not Josef’s friends who pick up the phone, but Alex’s mother.
After killing the searchers, Alex begins to realize that Mina did kill Josef after all. The guy is trying to feel the satisfaction of retribution, asking the girl if the maniac suffered.
Alex says that Mina can leave – he won’t tell anyone about her. But the girl does not want to part with him. The couple enters the house, where Mina is targeted by the hostess. She stabs Alex from behind. The girl says that she should not have done this, to which the guy replies that he wanted to protect her.
Alex enjoys eating the soup prepared by the murdered hostess. The couple decides to stay in the house for a while, hiding from people. Teenagers hug.
Frame from the film.
At night, Mina enters the room of the owner’s daughter, changes into clean clothes. She also tries to eat soup, but it does not work – her body still does not accept the usual food for people (the previous time the girl tried to eat corn flakes from Josef’s car). Mina telephones the same number and hears the voice of Alex’s mother. She asks for her son back.
The owner’s daughter’s car arrives at the house. She and her husband came to visit their mother. Alex is taken away and Mina gives chase. The girl jumps on the roof of the car, tells the guy that she is here. Apparently, due to such an unexpected appearance, the driver loses control. The car overturns. Alex is hurt and can’t get out. Mina says she called his mother and the guy will be home soon. He remembers Josef, but the girl once again promises that the maniac will never return. Alex dreams that he will get his eyesight back and live a normal life with Mina.
Rescue services arrive. Mina watches as Alex is taken away in an ambulance. He desperately calls the girl.
Mina returns to her house, picks up her father’s portrait and some other things. She leaves the ax. Sitting by the lake, she draws Alex and eats corn flakes.
At the end, Mina is walking down the road. She is picked up by a passing car, and we see that the girl now looks like a completely normal teenager.
The Dark Ending explanation
The meaning of the ending of the film “The Dark” is as follows: Mina has turned into an ordinary person. It happened thanks to the warm feelings that she experienced for Alex. The girl was able to leave her terrible past, taking with her good memories (this is emphasized by the portrait of her father put in the backpack and the crying female portrait left in the house). Now she is ready to trust people again. The fact that she accepted the help of a passing woman in a car speaks volumes.
From the explanation of the ending, it is not clear whether Mina was previously some kind of supernatural being – the living dead. Or was she a feral cannibalistic teenager? Such an interpretation is also possible, given the conventions of film language. And, on the one hand, the supernatural essence of her transformations is hinted at in the course of the film. This is both the appearance of the heroine and the characteristics of her body (rejection of ordinary food, low body temperature, colossal “combat capability”, especially after fatal wounds inflicted by her stepfather). On the other hand, all this is presented too ordinary, which suggests that, by and large, it does not matter.
The meaning and essence of the film is something else – in the changes that have occurred within the characters.
The finale gives hope for a happy future for the main characters. Perhaps they will even be together. Maybe Mina will find a new home and Alex will get his sight back. And such an ending, oddly enough, does not look fake in the context of the entire content of the film. Indeed, in general, the picture, despite the name, is not about The Dark, but about the inner light that helps to overcome it.
Frame from the film.
The meaning of the film The Dark
The Dark starts out like a standard horror slasher. Cliches familiar to fans of the genre are repeated: a resident of the hinterland warning of danger, an old abandoned house, scary drawings. It’s a bit confusing, but that’s exactly the effect the authors wanted. The point is that we see a monster, but the real monsters are in the guise of ordinary people. Among these “dark adepts” are Josef and Mina’s stepfather.
Two young souls, almost destroyed by the cruelty of this world, met and saw hope in each other. Both Alex and Mina are victims. The first accepted his fate and completely submitted to the villain, the second embarked on the path of revenge and turned into a killer. And both thanks to each other were able to change. Alex gradually got rid of the fear of a maniac, Mina ceased to be a ruthless killer – this is especially emphasized by her regret about the death of her mistress.
Those who are unwilling to accept the drama of The Dark will be drawn to the strange, melancholy storytelling and weak dialogue. Maybe they will even find some other, hidden meaning of the picture. But, apparently, the authors wanted to tell exactly a touching, bright (again, paradoxical title) story that does not claim to have any special depth.
Frame from the film.
- “Twilight” (USA, 2008): the first part of the cult franchise about the love of a girl and a vampire;
- “The Warmth of Our Bodies” (USA, Canada, 2013): a zombie guy saves a girl;
- “In the Flesh” (UK, 2013-2014): a drama series about how zombies turn back into ordinary people and try to live their old lives;
- “Let Me In” (Sweden, 2008): a boy meets a vampire girl;
- Dark (Germany, USA, 2017-2020): a fantasy series that has nothing to do with the film of the same name, but is a little close to it in spirit.