Set in the beautiful Canadian Rockies, Dark Nature is a psychological-horror-turned-survival-thriller from writer-director Berkley Brady. A year after escaping her violently abusive boyfriend Derek (Daniel Arnold), Joy (Hannah Emily Anderson) joins her best friend Carmen (Madison Walsh) for a weekend of camping deep in the wilderness… and confronting their most insidious fears. Far from a relaxing getaway, the weekend is a retreat led by Dr. Dunley (Kyra Harper), a therapist who is idolized by Carmen and fellow therapy group members Shaina (Roseanne Supernault) and Tara (Helen Belay), each of whom are dealing with their own intense trauma. As the group moves deeper into the woods and begin to explore their dark secrets, Joy begins to fear that they may not be alone. Terrorized by (possibly hallucinated) sightings of her abuser Derek—as well as fleeting whispers that only she can hear—Joy begins to distrust Dr. Dunley. When Tara goes missing during the night, the group’s weekend of healing swiftly transforms into a living nightmare.
Imbued with heavy shades of The Descent (2005) and The Invisible Man (2020), Dark Nature is at its strongest, smartest, and most compelling in its first half, as it explores the lingering effects of the trauma that Joy has endured and calls into question whether her visions of Derek are real or imagined. Had the film continued mining this particular vein, I would likely have recommended it wholeheartedly. As it transitions over to a Predator-esque survival horror, it loses some of its steam, though the creature design, practical FX, and score by the experimental Métis pop/rock band Ghostkeeper work in its favour. The promise and potential of the film’s opening act have me looking forward to checking out Berkley Brady’s future work.