Gruesome Reviews

“Dark Cove” (2016): A beautiful place for some dark deeds

Take a group of five friends heading out for their annual camping and partying trip. Throw in three fellow campers, Aussies at that, and a park ranger. Now consider that one of the five friends, unbeknownst to the others, is on the edge of insanity, and that one of the Australians is a closet rapist. These are the basic ingredients of Dark Cove, a low budget Canadian production, written and directed by Rob Willey.  

Eliot Bayne (left) Rob Abbate (top) Rob Willey (right)
Eliot Bayne (left) Rob Abbate (top) Rob Willey (right)

The film begins with a shot of three men in the process of burying a body while arguing back and forth about the possibility of discovery. The story immediately goes back to when the five friends – Jen (Montanna McNalley), Ian (Eliot Bayne), Quinn (Rob Willey), Joey (Rob Abbate), and Lacey (Jules Cotton) – are packing for their trip. Unsurprisingly, their first priorities are drugs and alcohol. In fact, their packing checklist consists of 4 items: beer, weed, ‘shrooms, and camping shit. When they get to the the secluded, backwoods, titular Sombrio Cove, British Columbia, they make short work of hiking their supplies in and setting up camp. Next up on the agenda is … surprise, surprise … getting loaded, followed by a little recreation for good measure.

Donnie (Cameron Crosby), one of the Aussies, wanders over and invites the five Canadians over to the Australians’ camp for some nighttime partying. Once they’ve choked down their psilocybin mushrooms, the Canadians head to the Aussie camp where they meet Donnie’s friends, Chase (Ty Stokoe) and Dean (James Anderson). After a pleasant evening of drinking, toking, and singing, everyone eventually makes it back to their own tents, with one exception. The peaceful night is broken when one of the Australians is caught sexually assaulting Jen. From that point on, one or more of the Canadians make one bad decision after another as things go from bad to dreadfully worse for both the original five friends and their Australian party mates. The next day a park ranger (Ken Hunt) happens on the scene, and is also swept up in the chain of events set in motion by the sexual assault.

Eliot Bayne as Ian
Eliot Bayne as Ian

Dark Cove has some strong points. The setting is beautiful and effectively showcased by the cinematography (Ian Macphee). The visuals behind the opening credits and indeed, throughout the film, whether in the cove or the forest, are gorgeous and set a serene scene providing a stark contrast to the events of the story’s last act. The sound is also top notch and the music is entertaining. When you consider the budget is in the neighborhood of 25,000-50,000 Canadian dollars, the look and sound of Dark Cove is even more impressive.

However, I do have three major issues with this film. First, the dialog and the actors worked far too hard at trying to sound like young hipsters with smart, fast-paced and funny banter. Instead of smart and funny, it comes off as annoyingly sophomoric with discussions about penis size, who’s the horniest, the crazy shit that happened the last time they did ‘shrooms, and an undecipherable nickname for a sexual position.

Second, with the exception of Donnie and the park ranger, none of the male characters are likable. In fact, they’re incredibly irritating and obnoxious, self-absorbed twits. If you ran into them in real life, you wouldn’t spend 15 minutes with them, let alone the 84-minute run time of the movie. Donnie seems relatively innocent and not too bad of a bloke and the park ranger’s just trying to do his job and keep people safe.

Rob Willey (left) vs. Ty Stokoe (right)
Rob Willey (left) vs. Ty Stokoe (right)

My final and third issue is the pace. There is far too much exposition as everything is explained ad nauseam with dialog. It’s 48 minutes into the movie before anything of real consequence to the plot takes place. For example, we hear and see, in annoying and unfunny detail, how Joey gets someone to substitute for him at work so he has the weekend off. That scene doesn’t give it us any insight into Joey nor does it have any bearing in the plot.

To be more specific, my problem is not with the story. It’s a good idea for a film. All the characters’ actions are logical in the circumstances set forth as the story progresses, though explanations of their motives are at times a bit ham-fisted. My problem is with the way in which the story is told, the juvenile dialog, and the extensive exposition. The basic story coupled with the excellent cinematography and sound leads me to believe there is a much better movie down the road for these filmmakers, Despite my aforementioned issues with this movie, I give Dark Cove 2 stars based mainly on the story idea, sound, and cinematography. But that’s just me.

Dark Cove 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

Jeff Mohr
Jeff lives smack dab in the middle of the cornfields of Iowa and is a long time horror fan. His first remembered encounters with the genre were The Wizard of Oz, Tarzan gorilla chases, and watching the first broadcast of The Twilight Zone episode, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” While he now qualifies as an old fart, he strives to be an “Old Boy.” Paraphrasing Robert Bloch, he has the heart of a small boy. He keeps it in a jar on his desk. Jeff has written for Horrornews.net and SQ Horror Magazine and co-hosted the SQ Bloodlines podcast. He currently writes for Gruesome Magazine and is co-host of the Decades of Horror The Classic Era and 1970s podcasts.
Jeff Mohr
Jeff lives smack dab in the middle of the cornfields of Iowa and is a long time horror fan. His first remembered encounters with the genre were The Wizard of Oz, Tarzan gorilla chases, and watching the first broadcast of The Twilight Zone episode, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” While he now qualifies as an old fart, he strives to be an “Old Boy.” Paraphrasing Robert Bloch, he has the heart of a small boy. He keeps it in a jar on his desk. Jeff has written for Horrornews.net and SQ Horror Magazine and co-hosted the SQ Bloodlines podcast. He currently writes for Gruesome Magazine and is co-host of the Decades of Horror The Classic Era and 1970s podcasts.