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The Other Side of Darkness


‘…The Other Side of Darkness’s fresh, accessible narrative could show many Hollywood flicks a thing or two…’

I’ve been involved in a dozen feature films; one got picked up by a US indie distributor, sold a few copies on physical media and was promptly forgotten- I learned from a friend years later that without any publicity or exposure, the movie picked up a million views on YouTube alone. Something similar seems to have happened to Adam Deierling’s family adventure film The Other Side of Darkness which has racked up an impressive two and a half million views in less than a year; it’s safe to say that most of this year’s Oscar nominees fell far short of that kind of popular benchmark, and maybe we need to redraw our idea of what a modern sleeper success is; movies you’ve never heard of seem to be more watched than the ones you never stop hearing about.

Shot in Ohio and West Virginia, the story is about teenager Taylor Jo (Maggie Callahan) or TJ to her friends. At 16, she files for emancipation from her sleaze-ball guardian, but tracing her birth family leads her to head off with her brother Patrick (Drake Tobias) and friend Hannah (Olivia Billings) in a Jeep Wrangler that her mother left her. But when she connects with her grandfather (Scott C Davis), TJ intuitively knows that something isn’t right, and she’s correct; could the family secret have something to do with the sudden electrical blackouts that seem to be bringing America to its knees on a state by state basis?

While it’s the lot of a film-critic to be amazed at how well crafted a low-budget movie can be, The Other Side of Darkness is pretty astonishing in terms of production values and acting for its $15,000 budget; the images are sharp and clear, and it’s a very professionally made film. And while the slowly developed narrative might put some viewers off, it’s really worth sticking with Deieirling and co; it’s a good hour of well-wrought family drama before we really get a clue what’s going on, and it’s not the sci-fi, horror, fantasy goofiness that we expect from low budget features. Instead, spoiler alert, we discover that one of the central characters has been radicalised by an anarchist group with unspecified grievances, and that gradual build up of credibility helps realise a serious plotline that reflects anxieties about the direction of extremism in society in a way that blockbusters rarely do.

A balm for those who seek the wholesome adventure of the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew updated, The Other Side of the Darkness generally steps away from sex, violence or preaching; it’s an old-school adventure story that builds steadily to a stand-off climax, but never gets silly or sentimental. With uniformly strong performances from an unfamiliar cast, The Other Side of Darkness’s fresh, accessible mystery narrative could show many Hollywood flicks a thing or two about creating an original story that doesn’t just copy other films, but makes it look easy to entertain.


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    • Agreed. Good old fashioned teens investigating a grown up mystery. Can’t beat it.

  1. I’ve found a lot of old films on You Tube (and you know for me “old” is 1930s). A lot of them aren’t available anywhere else, so I feel like watching them is within my bounds.

    I love the idea of watching lesser known on You Tube, but I also hope the filmmakers are getting paid. Now that I can stream YouTube on my big TV, there’s no difference between that and any other streaming service.

    Nancy Drew is a magic word for me – I’ve added this one to my teetering queue.

    • I guess it’s a plus if film-makers can see their films being watched, but the financial rewards are minimal. It’s a great source for older movies, quite often they have exactly what you’re looking for.

      Thought I might have got your attention with my Gilmore Girls coverage at the weekend…

  2. For an additional 10K they could have had ME cameo. What a chance they wasted. Well, their loss.
    The whole destruction of electrical grids I think is going to start happening with regularity in the next decade or so. We’ve already had a couple of instances of people shooting out particular parts to shut down a town, so once explosives get involved, it will get really serious.
    If I owned a home, I’d be investing in a generator and the biggest underground fuel tank I could find.

  3. I don’t know how much we can read into YouTube popularity. What does a “view” mean? that people watched the whole movie or only found themselves on the page for the standard 15 seconds? And if it’s available for free, how does that compare to a movie with a commercial release? This does sound impressive though if they brought it in for $15K. In fact, I have a hard time believing that.

    • So YouTube and social media seem to offer a different tier for film-making these days; almost like a Wild West where copyright is minimal and money is hard to raise. But people do seem to watch a lot of stuff on YouTube in particular, and its possible for both old and new films to enhance their reputations via a distibution method casual audiences are comfortable with.

      My issue with YouTube popularity is that it’s easy to fake and manipulate; YouTube just arrange for your film to autoplay, so I never take seriously the list of views when there’s an obvious vested interest. If I don’t switch off autoplay, I’ll find I’ve been racking up hits for sh*t comics and tv shows I’d never watch.

      • The YouTube algorithm is a source of evil. I guess the platform could work as a kind of feeder system, if it doesn’t kill the industry first.

        • To be positive, YT can also be the platform for word of mouth hits, and at least offers alternative content.

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