The one thing that really works for Dark Nature is its title, but outside of the humor in that, there’s not much substance in this centuries-old story of toxic relationships and the importance of dealing with trauma. If 2005’s The Descent was the epitome of building terror step by step as we go further into the abyss while overcoming our trauma in the good old, adventurous ways, Dark Nature made no notes. Dark Nature has ideas but no execution; it only scrapes the surface of what it’s trying to do in a pretty bland manner. Dark Nature follows a young woman named Joy who has been in a traumatic relationship. To help Joy get over her ex, her friend Carmen comes up with the idea of a fun expedition in the woods with a group. Said group is led by a psychiatrist who will help them each get over their traumas, so what could possibly go wrong in this scenario? Let’s find out.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘Dark Nature’?
Joy and Derek are in an extremely toxic relationship where the man who claims to love her physically abuses Joy. When they’re sharing an intimate moment, Joy is forced by Derek to do something she’s unwilling to do, which she denies. He gets furious, saying he’s “disappointed,” and finally ends up choking her. Joy narrowly escapes his grip and runs into a room, leaving her dog outside. Suddenly, she hears a whimper from the dog and dreadfully Derek has killed the dog. Six months later, Joy goes on a trip with her best friend Carmen and a few other girls. This group is hosted by Dr. Dunnley, who we can assume is a psychiatrist or therapist who is helping young women get over their traumas by taking them on a wilderness retreat. Joy is extremely skeptical about the whole idea, but Carmen is sure that Joy will come out better and brighter from the whole experience. The more we see of them, the more we realize that Joy and Carmen are very opposite in nature. Joy is quick to find faults and quite pessimistic (probably because she’s suffering), but Carmen is all sunshine and rainbows. They arrive at a place called “Little Deer Lake,” which is supposed to be private property. On their way to the spot of their camp, they also encounter a couple of strange men who run up in front of their car as if hoping for disaster to strike.
They’re climbing a beautiful mountain range on their weekend of adventure with Dr. Dunnley and a woman named Shauna, who has PTSD from her time in Afghanistan. The team gets to know each other, and on the first night, Joy has a really strange dream where she sees Derek and also a creature. Both Tara and her hear strange noises in the forest, but everybody else dismiss them as sounds of the forest. During a trust exercise, Shauna gets on Tara’s nerves, so Tara gets separated from the group. At the same time, Carmen hears Joy mention Derek, and Joy is completely disoriented. She feels like he’s followed them there. When Joy finds Tara, she realizes that she’s having some kind of hallucination, and she thinks the creature she’s seeing in her dreams has something to do with it. Soon after, they encountered an animal cadaver, and Joy’s fears increased. She even asked the doctor when they found a camera in the forest if she was the one who was setting up these things to make them afraid as part of their “healing” process.
Soon after, Joy has her biggest hallucinating episode yet as she feels choked by Derek after seeing a creature in the forest. Carmen, who drifted away after hearing some sounds, returns to a shaken Joy. The group tries to calm her down, but she knows that something isn’t right, and she needs to get back home. That night, Joy has another fever-dream-like vision of Derek, and Tara asks to stay in their tent because she’s feeling terribly unsafe. They agree, but the next day Tara is gone, and along with her, so is the food supply. The doctor thinks she knows where Tara will be and decides to go alone to speak to her (ugh, people really need to stop walking toward danger instead of away). Even after Carmen suggests that they should stick together because it would be bad for Tara if they all bombard her together, Dr. Dunnley goes to find Tara herself, and what do you know? In about half a second, we hear her screeching. The girls run after her and see blood on the way and a huge blotch of blood on a rock ahead of them. Shauna decides to venture out even though Joy and Carmen think that it’s a better idea to call for help rather than jumping in themselves.
Shauna sees Dr. Dunnley’s boot, but when she walks towards it, there’s no body attached to the leg. She now has the same kind of visions that Joy and Tara were having about her own trauma and ends up falling off the rock. Joy and Carmen see her fall, so they go up to find her despite their instincts telling them not to. They end up on the other side of the cliff because they can’t see her from the top. There’s more blood, and they fear the worst; maybe they’re being hunted by the men who showed up on their way? They find a cave and think that Shauna has been taken in there or gone in by herself to find shelter. In the cave, they find Tara locked in what looks like a wooden cage, and Carmen asks Joy to take her out to safety. Tara points them to the inside of the cave and says that “he” is there. Joy is reluctant to leave but eventually leaves with Tara. Carmen finds Dr. Dunnley with her leg chewed off, but she can’t reach her. She’s about to get down to her level before a creature shows up and drags Dr. Dunnley away. Carmen barely escapes the creature in the cave and jumps into a body of water ahead. From where she is, she can see the other two and the creature that is behind them.
‘Dark Nature’ Ending Explained: What Happens To The Creature?
Carmen yells for the girls to look behind and run into the water to join her. There’s a cage-like structure made from branches in the water, and they hide inside of it because the creature can’t reach them. Both Tara and Carmen are deeply injured, and the former is even spitting blood. She deduces that the creature is going to bleed them out if they continue to stay under and decides to sacrifice herself so the other two can escape. Tara’s trauma has something to do with being bound because when she mentions the feeling of impending death, Carmen reassures her that she would never let her die in a cage. We never learn what happened to Tara, but maybe she was kidnapped or trafficked and managed to escape. With Tara’s sacrifice, Carmen and Joy rush to their tents so they can take their supplies, hide, and leave.
The real reason Joy was late to join them on the trip the day they left was that Derek had shown up at her house asking for forgiveness again. It was six months after they had separated due to the dog incident, and Carmen had sent a vase of flowers to celebrate. The next day, when Derek woke up and tried to convince Joy that everything was good between them, she realized that letting him back into her life was a mistake. He wouldn’t let her escape again, though, and so she had to hit him with the vase to save herself. Joy left with Derek lying on the floor, bleeding out, in her house. It’s possible that he died in there or that he escaped, but we don’t know what the outcome was anyway.
The creature shows up and grabs the tent with Carmen in it. Joy goes to save her and realizes that the creature is just like Derek, who “needs” love. For some reason, the creature calms down around Joy, and she manages to give him a hug. In her mind, she sees the creature as Derek because she is facing her trauma both physically and mentally. She hugs him and then stabs him in the eye as Carmen screams in fear. At the end of Dark Nature, with the same pocket lighter that reminded Joy of Derek all the time, Joy and Carmen torched the creature in its cave and escaped. They drive out safely, and Carmen reminds Joy that she needs to go back and see if Derek is still there. Carmen is actually a great friend. Carmen had earlier thought that this was her last chance for Joy because, at the end of the day, she can’t support somebody who can’t support themselves. Friendship prevails, and so do the last girls!