The Dark End Of The Street is a feature film debut for writer director Kevin Tran and with it we get a small, calm look at the microcosm that is a suburban street and the lives of everyone within it as they intertwine.
I say it’s small and calm, because it doesn’t over-extend in terms of its scope. Rather, the film introduces us to a fairly large ensemble cast of different people who all vaguely resemble neighbourhood stereotypes. However, they all feel like real people you’d come across in everyday life rather than literal stereotypes.
While The Dark End Of The Street isn’t necessarily a horror, we do get some classic horror elements. The driving force behind the narrative is that someone is brutally murdering the neighbourhood pets, and certainly the film doesn’t shy away from depicting the animal murders onscreen.
We follow the lives of the residents over the course of one night with this crime in the back of their minds and with the killer still very much at large. Based on knowledge of similar narratives, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this set-up leads to a dramatic confrontation or things going sideways. But every-time you think the film is about to erupt into a full-blown horror or thriller, or things are about to get melodramatic, it instead, more realistically, resolves its conflicts in a fairly muted way.
The tone, although mostly documentary-esque in the way it follows the inhabitants of the neighbourhood, does have a suitable level of foreboding with Andre Kelman’s musical score and cinematography from Sebastian Slayter especially as daytime turns into night and things get darker. I’ve underplayed the drama here slightly because dramatic things do, in fact, happen. However, we’re left to consider the implications of them rather than dwell on them or overtly see them.
Tran instead chooses to focus on the little everyday anxieties, concerns and worries of middle-class suburbia, which is why his threat isn’t a home invader or serial killer, but the quite sad figure of a grown man murdering pets and also why the film never gets overly hysterical even with some of its more shocking moments.
The film reinforces this by removing any real mystery or suspense around the pet slayings by showing us exactly who is responsible from a very early point of the film. Instead, Tran chooses to explore what he thinks the real interesting story is – the reactions of the rest of the neighbourhood and how they’re inexplicably thrust together in unexpected ways.
Some of the stories that take place are a lady mourning the death of her pet connecting with a gentleman who lives across the road from her, an overly concerned father growing more paranoid about the pet slayings eventually leading him to make a terrible mistake, a pregnant couple new to the neighbourhood and a group of teenagers just doing what teenagers do.
The performances from the ensemble cast are all solid. The standout for me was Brooke Bloom, who is given the most to do with 30-ish spinster Marney Wilson, the unfortunate woman who finds her murdered pet at the beginning of the film and spends the rest of the day in mourning.
Overall, The Dark End Of The Street is a neat little exploration of a community and how small, albeit shocking, things can reverberate throughout and amplify the everyday worries and concerns we all have. It’s very real and very authentic and a decent watch!
The Dark End Of The Street was featured at New Filmmakers 2020, and will be released on VOD from Gravitas Ventures on Tuesday, August 11th.