Journey into the nightmare, the review: a dark descent into hell and an uncomfortable past

The review of Journey into the Nightmare: thanks to the Midnight Factory release we discovered a very dark New Zealand thriller-horror. Two thugs rob a family, but then an uncomfortable past emerges.

Journey into the nightmare: a scene from the film

Another precious release from the Midnight Factory, label of Plaion Pictures, allows you to discover an interesting dark and anxious horror thriller set in the vast spaces of New Zealand. As we will see in the Review of Journey into the Nightmarethe title with which the James Ashcroft film presented at Sundance and also at the Turin Festival arrived on homevideo in Italy (in the original Coming Home in the Dark), is a small jewel of tension, certainly not perfect, but full of atmospheres disturbing.

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Journey into the Nightmare: Daniel Gillies and Matthias Luafutu in a scene from the film

A sadistic journey to chase an uncomfortable past

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Journey into the Nightmare: Miriama McDowell in a scene from the film

At the beginning of Journey into the Nightmare – Coming Home in the Dark, a family consisting of teacher Hoggie (Erik Thomson), his wife Jill (Miriama McDowell) and their two children, are on a trip, ready to enjoy a day in the middle of the lost nature, a suggestive and remote place in New Zealand. But when, after leaving the car, they stop for a relaxing picnic, two men with clearly hostile and threatening intentions approach: one of them has a rifle, it looks like a robbery of two thugs destined to close quickly anyway.

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Journey into the Nightmare: Matthias Luafutu in a scene from the film

But then one word too many, a nickname, awakens old and bad memories. And a dark past of Hoggie slowly emerges, of which not even his wife seems to be aware. An aspect that the two attackers know all too well. And at that point a real nightmare begins for the family: a journey into the night with sadistic tones, chasing the traumas of an uncomfortable and horrifying past, to return to where it all began.

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A psychological hammering to go back to where all the evil began


Journey into the Nightmare: Erik Thomson and Daniel Gillies in a scene from the film

The most convincing aspect of Journey into the Nightmare is the unhealthy and painful atmosphere that reigns throughout the film, the result not only of the psychopathic attitude of the two attackers, but also of Hoogie’s mysterious past that slowly emerges. All the protagonists, as the original title says, are somewhere going back to where all evil began, through a journey into the darkness and ravines of the human soul.

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Journey into the Nightmare: Daniel Gillies in a scene from the film

James Ashcroft’s film is dark, it gives no one the slightest hope because true justice is impossible and revenge does not quench any thirst. In this journey where not a shred of humanity emerges, the desolate and long-night setting also plays a fundamental role, causing further disorientation. We are facing an atypical horror, where practically the blood is almost absent, the violence is always off screen, but the focus is on disturbing psychological hammering that feeds anguish and tension.

The desire for revenge and the role of chance


Journey into the Nightmare: Miriama McDowell in a scene from the film

The mystery of why one of the attackers, who goes by the name of Mandrake (Daniel Gillies), seems to have a desire for pure, raw, almost ancestral revenge, helps fuel the tension. And why he wants to take Hoggie to a certain place. Affiore the theme of the past that returns, from which one cannot escape, for which one must always and only pay. But also of the role played by chance, which here seems truly merciless for how it made the fates of the protagonists cross, a case that can turn your life upside down at any moment.

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Journey into the Nightmare: Daniel Gillies in a scene from the film

The beauty is that the film manages to achieve all of this despite a really sparse script and essential dialogues, playing a lot on a strong aesthetic. If there is something that leaves a bad taste in the mouth it is a slightly unsettling ending, but not in a positive sense, but something that seems out of place, almost illogical for what had been the premises. In the end, however, it closes as it had begun, with a blood-red sunset over a barren and arid landscape that seems to look motionless at the darkness of human nature, and in which that distant human presence that emerges is too small to count for anything.

Blu-ray: also a booklet in the slipcase. Great video, good audio

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As mentioned, we were able to appreciate Journey into the Nightmare – Coming Home in the Dark thanks to the Midnight Factory release from Plaion Pictures, which once again features a well-curated packaging, with an elegant slipcase within which we also find a booklet. The technical quality is always remarkable. The video presents a compact and well-detailed picture even in the panoramas, with a natural chroma: the strong point, however, is the tightness in the dark scenes, an important factor since much of the film is set at night. In these situations the seal is good, the images are solid and the detail always emerges from the shadows. The audio in DTS HD 5.1 also does its part worthily, with a good displacement of the effects and an incisive impact in moments of greatest tension. In the extras only the trailer, but remember that there is also the booklet.


At the conclusion of the review of Journey into the Nightmare, we recognize the capacity of James Ashcroft’s film to generate tension and an unhealthy non-trivial atmosphere. Through the story of two thugs who make a family fall into a nightmare, the themes of the returning past and the chance that governs human lives are also touched upon. Only an ending that seems a bit pulled away is perplexing, but does not affect the good quality of the thriller.

Because we like it

  • The dark and desperate atmospheres that dominate the film.
  • The journey into the nightmare is a real psychological descent into the underworld.
  • The theme of the returning past matches well with that of chance.

What’s wrong

  • The ending is not entirely convincing.

Journey into the nightmare, the review: a dark descent into hell and an uncomfortable past