Berkley Brady has already captured some awards for her horror film Dark Nature.
But Brady, a Métis director/writer living in Calgary, has another reason why she’s pumped about the movie, which marks her feature film debut.
That’s because Dark Nature will start screening in theatres across Canada and the United States on May 19.
The film is about a survivor of domestic abuse who goes on a weekend retreat in the secluded Canadian Rockies. It will be shown in 30 theatres across Canada and 25 others in the U.S.
“It’s really, really exciting,” Brady said of her film’s theatre run.
Dark Nature had its world premiere last summer at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal. Brady’s movie has also been shown at about 20 other festivals throughout the world.
Her accolades include winning the Best Director Award at the Toronto-based Blood in the Snow Film Festival. And her film was chosen as the Best Feature at a Nova Scotia festival.
Dark Nature, an 85-minute film, focuses on Joy, who is played by Hannah Emily Anderson.
Following a horrific assault by her domestic partner, Joy joins four other women for a retreat in a remote location.
Early on she begins to suspect that her attacker is following her. As it turns out, the noises from the bushes are not her partner, but a deadlier monster.
Spoiler alert. Not all of the women on the retreat survive the weekend.
Brady said she has never been on a similar retreat herself, but she was inspired to write Dark Nature after working on a short documentary with a woman who had run vision quests. Also, one of Brady’s mentors had previously conducted vision quests.
“That’s sort of all about being in nature and slowing down to just listen to what happens when you don’t have distractions,” Brady said. “And you’re actually just kind of like forced to be where you are. And good things happen, I think. That’s why vision quests are such a rite of passage for people, or they have been. I was coming at it really from that perspective.”
Brady, however, opted to put a spin on her film.
“I thought, what if in total contrast this becomes the worst thing that can happen,” she said. “So, it’s funny. I actually do believe that if you can get outside and get into some of the more natural rhythms, it’s very good for us. We’re animals too. But in this case, that didn’t happen, unfortunately for the characters.”
Brady has been a long-time admirer of horror flicks.
“I’ve always loved horror,” she said. “And I think it’s neat how it is becoming more mainstream now. But I also think there can be some danger in that because part of what I love is that it’s a rebellious genre because it is the genre that really commits to showing the full scale of human experience, including the darkest most depraved things we can imagine or go through. And that inherently doesn’t mean that will be in good taste, because those things are not in good taste.”
But they can make for some good films.
“What I love about horror is that it is not afraid to just sort of be ugly and show the whole range of human experience,” she added. “And I think it really is cathartic to be scared with others in a room, as something you see on a screen.”
Brady realizes a film including domestic abuse can be a challenging one to work with.
“There’s very few people I know, particularly women, who haven’t had an experience like that in degrees of intensity,” she said of her Joy character. “And after every screening, somebody has come up to me and said that happened to me, exactly as it was depicted. So, I think her character is an amalgamation of experiences that I’m aware of.”
Brady believes viewers will have various takeaways from Dark Nature.
“It’s for horror fans or people that like a thriller or like to be scared,” she said. “But it’s also about friendships. So, I think, if anything, that it just makes people look at some of these issues, like domestic violence or any sort of trauma, at a deeper level.”