If you go down to the woods today, don’t watch this film. In the eerie nature-centered horror flick Lovely, Dark, and Deep the not-so-big surprise is that the woods are a terrible place in which to get lost. Utilising the overwhelming presence of nature, the film delivers a strange, though somewhat scattered portrayal of the terrors that trap us when we’re alone in the dark. 

The story follows the trail of solemn park ranger Lennon, portrayed by the compelling Georgina Campbell, as she starts work in a national park that seems to be composed of more missing people posters than trees. Writer/ director Teresa Sutherland crafts a story that combines the anxiety of isolation with the pain of loss, as Lennon grapples with unresolved trauma whilst getting increasingly caught up in the harrowing secrets of the park. The chilling story provokes intense reactions and profound questions, though perhaps the most prudent question is why on Earth people continue to go to this park. Unfortunately, in its somewhat self-congratulatory quest to show us just how freaky trees can be, it slightly loses track of the story it was originally trying to tell, culminating in a rushed and unearned conclusion. 

As a film with nature at its centre, it earns its biggest points through its stunning imagery. Drawn in by clever shots and impressive views, the audience is  left forced to grapple with the knowledge of just how small we really are in comparison to the world around us. The omnipresence of nature is craftily manipulated throughout the film, invoking the chilling thought that we are never truly alone. The film makes use of subtle background details and creepy sound effects to deliver its central feelings of paranoia and unease. However, these simple tricks lose their gravitas as the film goes on, and they are defeated by a need to deliver on the plot’s undetermined, overarching threat before the film ends. All of this results in a panicked and confused finale that doesn’t complement the film’s carefully crafted premise. 

Like the story its trying to deliver, Lovely, Dark, and Deep is a film that enters with determination but gets lost somewhere along the way. Though the film certainly succeeds in disconcerting its audience, with such an intriguing concept at its disposal you can’t help but feel that it deserved to do more. Ultimately, it’s not a film likely to leave you feeling wholly satisfied or eager for a rewatch. Still, if you’re looking for an interesting horror that will give you a good excuse not to go outside for a couple of days, then this is a good film for you.

Available on streaming services from Mon 25 Mar 2024