‘Shot in the Dark’ review: Dir. Keene McRae [Grimmfest 2021]

‘Shot in the Dark’ review: Dir. Keene McRae [Grimmfest 2021]

Keene McRae’s Shot in the Dark has just screened its world premiere to Manchester’s Grimmfest attendees. The film is a collaboration between McRae, Kristoffer McMillan and Lane Thomas, the three of them writing, producing and starring together in the production. Inspired by true events, Shot in the Dark is set over the course of two days in November 1998. Opening with some expositional text setting up events, Shot in the Dark points to its conclusion early on. Knowing the end destination doesn’t spoil the enjoyment; Shakespeare himself let the audience know where Romeo & Juliet was going. Shot in the Dark doesn’t reveal all of itself at this stage however, and keeps some of its hand hidden. 

After the introductory text, the story joins William Langston (McMillan), a man haunted by his past, whose hometown is caught in the stranglehold of a violent killer. As the killer ramps up their plan, William finds himself facing his greatest fears, as well as his own mortality. During this time the story changes tact and disappears into William’s past, the viewer getting a front row seat for a romance between William and Luli (Christine Donlon). It’s an interesting method of story-telling, keeping the horror of the story in the background for a while, and yet it’s one that works, making it far more shocking when we do arrive at the bleaker moments. 

Shot in the Dark is a film that moves at its own slow and considered pace. McRae is in no rush to get to his conclusion, allowing feelings and situations to marinate and really get under the viewer’s skin. This method of storytelling won’t suit everyone’s palette, but then this film hasn’t been created for the mass audience. Those whose attention is captured by this style will delight in unpicking the piece, rooting through the information presented, looking for clues and getting stuck into the characters and their world.

A lot of care and consideration has gone into the creation of Shot in the Dark. The acting is all in tune with the tone, an undercurrent of dread rippling underneath scenes that initially present themselves as mundane. But it’s the attention to detail to the late nineties time period that really showcases the dedication by the team. Those who were around and of an age to remember the era will feel right at home, whilst those too young may baulk at the idea of massive tube TV’s with tiny screens, and no internet. The lack of modern technology really helps the story to sing, updates only being spread via word of mouth and the news. Were the same narrative to be extrapolated to a modern setting the story actions of some characters might not be as believable, but here they work.

In Shot in the Dark, Keene McRae approaches the idea of a serial killer from several different avenues and by doing so offers a unique take on the common story trope. The ‘inspired by real events’ angle works especially well here and will have you immediately reaching for the phone post viewing to find out where the boundaries between fact and fiction lie. 

By Kat Hughes