Movie Review: Coming Home In The Dark

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As a movie reviewer I see a lot of movies and by the end of the year there’s usually only one or two that remain top of mind. Having just seen Coming Home In The Dark I’m fairly sure this is going to be one of those two movies. A brilliant thriller set on a remote New Zealand nature reserve.

Movie Review: Coming Home In The Dark

The movie opens with mild-mannered Hoaggie (Erik Thomson), his wife Jill (Miriama McDowell) and their two boys as they journey out to a remote nature reserve on the coastline for some family time.

As the family settles down for a picnic two figures approach.

The psychopathic Mandrake (Daniel Gillies) and his intimidating accomplice, Tubs (Matthias Luafutu). When a single word is muttered by one of the sons, things take a turn. The family is held captive.

As the nightmare journey of bloodshed unfolds we learn more about the ruthless pair, as well as the family. Is this family just unlucky, or is something more primal and personal behind their ordeal?


Based on a short story by New Zealand master Owen Marshall, this unnerving thriller terrified audiences at Sundance earlier this year.

As my heart rate returned to normal I was left asking myself what would I do if you saw an injustice taking place? Is it our place to get involved? The movie will have you questioning the difference between doing something to help and just letting things be done.

All of the acting is great including the young boys. The scenery was spectacular as you would expect. However the first time cinematographer took this further with many interesting angles.

Prior to the movie we were treated to a short interview with the director Kiwi actor-turned-filmmaker James Ashcroft. He said he loved every challenging minute of making the movie and thanked all the bad directors he’d ever had as he’d learnt from them too.

“As a first time director you fear the risk of mutiny, but you have to trust your instincts and made your own mistakes.” (Ashcroft)


Ashcroft explained that the shoot took place on freezing nights in Wellington which meant the cold breath and shivering was real. He added that there was a lot of improvising. For example the young boys were real life brothers (Billy and Frankie Paratene). Having cast one young actor they were about to look for another when the first boy said he had a brother. Consequently they threw away the script and let the boys improvise.

Coming Home In The Dark is one not to miss.

Rating 9/10

For more information go to Luna Cinemas There will be a Livestream Q&A with the director and actors on September 18th.

Season starts Sept 9th

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