In Darkness We Fall (London Film Festival 2014) Review
“This would be a great idea for a movie,” one character promises into the lens. “Five people go in a cave; no one comes out alive.” With a wink to the audience, In Darkness We Fall (La cueva) is the kind of found-footage thriller that’s happy to follow genre beats without invention. Five young carefree friends (and a camera) take a camping trip to the beaches of Formentera to smoke weed, drink alcohol, and bask in an abandoned paradise. They’re obviously doomed. On the second day, they discover a cave and crawl into its dark corners, presuming it won’t be too much of a task to find an exit. How wrong they are.Director Alfredo Montero takes a while to introduce his five victims as (mostly) obnoxious youths only thinking about sex and drugs. They don’t possess any depth in character (and probably aren’t supposed to), but can be differentiated in the crudest sense. There’s an alpha male in Jaco (Marcos Ortiz), a pensive thinker in Celia (Marta Castellote) and a “whiner” in Begoña (Eva García Vacas). This leaves Carlos (Xoel Fernández) as the blogger conveniently dragging a camera around, and Iván (Jorge Páez) as someone without a notable attribute that springs to mind.The fun comes from the film’s secret weapon: the claustrophobic cave in which most of the action (and inaction) takes place. Each person squeezes through odd crevices populated with mesmerising spikes, while only guided by dim torches. Long story short: they get lost. However, Montero doesn’t opt for a “long story short” scenario and proceeds with an exhausting question of what happens when dehydration, hunger and paranoia set upon five unprepared tourists. The film doesn’t have much more to offer other than an extended tour of the impressive location, and leaves them sitting dejected in a circle like characters from The Breakfast Club. The resultant dialogue is so inane (“I’d rather die than eat my friend”) it’s laughably bad.One highlight, however, emerges when one of the gang dives into a current of water in search of an exit. Taking the camera with him, to create a POV effect, the underwater view is nothing like the dreamy sequences associated with Wes Anderson and The Graduate; it’s actually like drowning in a hidden location where no one will discover your body. I actually spent much of the film admiring the risks and difficulty recording these scenes, especially as the point of the cave is its lack of sunlight plays tricks with the mind.But when you spend most of the running time wondering about the production process instead of the characters’ plight, the found-footage obviously isn’t an immersive tool. In Darkness We Fall runs out of ideas quickly and becomes a real drag to reach 80 minutes – I knew too well how they must feel imprisoned inside a dark room wondering when they’d get to escape. There are a few unintentional chuckles when Carlos defends the need of videotaping everything (“They world outside needs to know what happened!”) but it doesn’t take long for all interest to cave in.’In Darkness We Fall’ is playing London Film Festival 2014 as part of the Cult strand. Ticket information can be found here.