Camping is a great way to relax yourself and leave all your worries behind when life is too stressful. But what happens when the camp gets too stressful? Despite my frequent camping trips as a youngster, they weren’t exactly too stressful. Except for that one where I was the common victim of torment among my fellow campmates. At least one of them apologized years later after a shocking realization and I am seeing improved civilized behaviour in another one. But that was all in the past. Things are much more different now, seeing how kids can be crueller than adults. But that doesn’t entirely mean adults are safe. Whether they’re camping or not, and that’s what is shown in Berkley Brady’s film, Dark Nature which gets really dark in nature while taking place in nature, occasionally in the dark.
Joy (Hannah Anderson) likes to find joy in simple pleasures and in spicing up life, but her husband Derek (Daniel Arnold) is too much of an inconsiderate grouch to care. It wasn’t always like this though, Joy and Derek would talk whenever he felt overwhelmed and find ways to pleasure each other through the roughest and toughest of days. Well, at least until one evening when he just can’t seem to calm down and curb his disappointment. That’s when domestic abuse sets in. Derek strangles Joy, something I’ve nearly dealt with myself (Don’t worry, it was only my younger brother and most times he gave away that attack too soon) but she successfully knocks him down with one critical hit to the head and escapes to one of the rooms in the house. Derek ends up taking out his anger on Joy’s poor doggy Sasha (Loki The Fluffy) instead. One dead dog later, Joy decides the best option is to go on a camping trip with her friend, Carmen (Madison Walsh) and Carmen’s friend Tara (Helen Belay). The biggest problem with Joy is she doesn’t want to talk about the abuse she’s dealt with and her difficult past. As the ladies make their way on the retreat, they come across some hunters (Dave Alexander and Michael Roik). One of them asks if the women have seen his dog, and Joy instantly gets traumatized thinking about what happened to her dog. Finally, they make it to their destination and meet Dr. Dunnley (Kyra Harper), who gets them started on a hike down a steep hill deep into the woods located somewhere in the Rockies. As Joy spends her time there, she connects with another woman named Shaina (Roseanne Supernault) who used to be in the army and claims to be filled with rage. Eventually, Joy forgets about her trauma for a while and experiences joy again. That is until one night when her nightmares bring a raging fire, a strange monster, and Derek. The ladies hike along the rails some more and eventually go on to a trust exercise. But no matter what they do, Joy can’t help but be reminded of Derek and wants to leave because she feels he’s stalking her. Tara starts experiencing trauma from her past as well involving a guy and her wrists tied together with zip ties. When the ladies discover a dead animal carcass, Joy is convinced they shouldn’t stick around but the women still stick together no matter what. The camping trip includes other signs of danger and discomfort including unsettling rock formations on a hiking trail, some mysterious entity whispering and breathing heavily in the forest or maybe just a feeling there’s some mysterious entity, and it seems like all the women experience an omen, not just Joy. As they relax around a cozy little campfire, Dr. Dunnley assures Joy she has made great strides throughout the trip, but Joy doesn’t feel comfortable and the nightmares only worsen for her. It also gets worse for Tara and Carmen as they experience flashbacks of their own trauma and decide it’s best to leave. But it only gets worse when Tara disappears the next morning and when Dr. Dunnley goes to scope her out, only for her to experience trauma as well. So what is causing this trauma? And will the women learn to overcome it and hopefully be cured of everything that caused all their pain?
It’s an interesting film that takes a turn of events. What they discover is not what one would think. I don’t know, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a camping trip-type movie like this one, so things did get a bit unexpected. However, it was still a good production. With a beautiful forest location in the mountains and a minimal cast, it feels like an actual camping trip. I wonder if they made this film shoot an actual camping trip, that would’ve been something interesting. I mean, those are the kinds that ought to be made. Aside from the nice setting and the interesting concept, what really helps is the intensity of some of the colours. When Joy and Carmen are sharing a tent together, the interior is completely red and it really adds to the vibe when Joy is having nightmares or the ladies are confessing things to each other. It almost feels like the film would’ve jumped right from domestic abuse to a camping trip, but not quite. We are still reminded of the beginning when everything went out of control and learn some more haunting things about the other women’s pasts. Really interesting way to turn a basic film about abuse into a suspenseful tale about a trip of horror, and Berkley Brady sure knows how to make this film seem so real it’s shocking. While things are slow for the first half, you’ll soon find things getting into a steadier pace before you know it, and when you least expect it, it’s all over.