Last year, the horror-thriller Dark Nature firstpremiered at the Fantasia International Film Festival and was later screened at the prestigious Cannes Marché du Film (the business counterpart of the Cannes Film Festival). Almost a year later, the film can now be seen in select theaters and VOD, as it was just released by Epic Pictures’ Dread label.

Dark Nature follows Joy, a survivor of domestic violence, as she joins her friend Carmen and her therapy group on an isolated weekend retreat in the Canadian Rockies. Led by the enigmatic Dr. Dunnley-whose methods are experimental and, at times, dubious from Joy’s outside perspective -the experience eventually shatters the border between reality and delusion. Joy begins to suspect that they are being stalked by her abuser, when in truth, the entire group will be forced to confront a threat even more terrifying than the monsters of their past.

Written and directed byBerkleyBrady (The Secret History of: The Wild West) and produced by Michael Peterson, Dark Nature stars Hannah Anderson (What Keeps You Alive, Jigsaw, The Purge), Madison Walsh (Don’t Say Its Name, Something Undone), Kyra Harper (Orphan Black, See) and Helen Belay (Abracadavers).

Dark Nature marks Brady’s feature directorial debut and is one that has a lot more depth than your typical horror film. With this story, Brady wanted to show the complexity of emotions that are involved in a bad relationship, all with the Canadian Rockies as a backdrop, notable effects, and an up-and-coming cast.

We spoke with Brady about everything from her journey as a director to sharing the same filming location with Hulu’s Prey.

Editor's Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

No Film School: What led you to want to become a film director? 

BerkleyBrady: I started as a writer who realized I didn’t want to spend decades alone in a room, writing. I also went to writing school at the University of Victoria and had a terrible time there. The sort of Can Lit they were pushing wasn’t for me; I loved genre, the poetry of hip-hop, and the classics by writers like Steinbeck. None of that was taught there. But I also loved photography and working with other artists on projects, so film seemed like the best place to do everything I love: tell stories, make images, and work with musicians.  

I applied for grad school at Columbia, but still had no idea what a director did or how to become one. But it was an incredible program. While I was there, I tried producing, writing, and cinematography, and once I had a better understanding of how films were made, I saw that the best way to tell the stories I wanted to tell was to direct them. I took the leap, started directing, fell on my face, and did it again. That was my process, and it was as glorious as it was humbling.  

A still from 'Dark Nature''Dark Nature'Credit: Epic Pictures Group

NFS: Was there a specific movie that made you want to go into filmmaking? 

Brady: There were movies I loved as a kid—The Princess Bride, Beaches—but I don’t think it was until I was in film school that I started to believe this was something I could do. I remember seeing Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank and leaving the theatre feeling very affected and inspired. Like she had tapped into some truth, especially about sexuality as I understood it. I mean, come on, those shots of Michael Fassbinder with his shirt off? Very female gaze in the way many of us are looking at that man! I’d never seen it on-screen before. From then on, I was committed to both the art and craft of film. She really set the standard for me.  

NFS: What inspired you to write the Dark Nature script? 

Brady: I initially came onto this project as a re-writer but then ended up working on the script for over a year and totally rewriting it. I wanted to portray the complexity of an abusive relationship, especially in a post #MeToo zeitgeist. I pulled from my own experiences and that of my friends, and what I took from our stories was less about whatever was “abusive” or “traumatic” and more about how going through these difficult relationships affected our friendships and the way we showed up for both ourselves and others.  

A still from 'Dark Nature''Dark Nature'Credit: Epic Pictures Group

NFS: What was the biggest obstacle with shooting Dark Nature? How did you overcome it? 

Brady: The biggest obstacle shooting Dark Nature was our location. For example, we shot one scene in a river.  If you’re a fan of Predator: Prey, then you’ll recognize the spot; it’s the same place their main character gets chased by the bear. I took my DP, the incredible Jaryl Lim, to the spot on a location scout, and the Predator people were there. They had a hot tub and porta-potties beside the river, all flown in by helicopter.

When we were there, we had to hike everything up and down a hill, and when it came to bathrooms, we had a tent with a portable toilet. The sheer grind of these hard-to-reach locations really does wear on the cast and crew, but everyone was incredible and committed to making it work. But the sheer exhaustion of getting through long days in tough locations was a challenge, and I think we overcame it through sheer willpower. Plus, I was pregnant at the time, so if I could do it, others could too.  

NFS: You have said that “Currently my sweet spot is in directing horror with a touch of adventure and a satisfying dash of emotion.” What is it about the horror world that interests you? 

Brady: I have so much respect for the horror genre. I think many directors use it to advance their careers but actually look down on it. I’m not one of those people. I respect the history of horror and what it stands for; the artistic freedom to explore the depths and ugliest parts of our humanity.  

The poster for 'Dark Nature''Dark Nature'Credit: Epic Pictures Group

NFS: Dark Nature is your first feature. What did you learn from this shoot? 

Brady: This shoot taught me to trust my instincts and it also kicked my ass. I learned so much. On these indie shoots, we’re always pressed for time and resources, but it taught me more about what battles to pick and what to fight for. I think each project is about finding those people to create a team with for the next project, and I really found some keepers on this one.  

NFS: Was there a scene in Dark Nature that didn’t look very complicated to shoot but was? 

Brady: Two scenes come to mind. The first is the opening scene, between Derek and Joy. It wasn’t particularly hard to shoot for me, but that apartment was very tough to light for Jaryl, our DP, and his team. It was a huge space and they were incredibly pressed for time to make it come alive. Jaryl worked for a lighting house in London for years before moving to Vancouver, so it was a fight to get that time for him and his team to do what they did. I think it looks beautiful and like a much higher budget film than we were thanks to them and his design.  

The other difficult scene was the final one with the monster. The interior cave is stunning, thanks to Myron Hyrak and his team, who built it in a warehouse. But the walls weren’t very tall. This meant our angles were limited, and we were pressed for time on the last days of the shoot.  

NFS: What would you say is key to shooting outside in the woods, where the light is constantly changing? 

Brady: The key to shooting outside is to have a DP who is the lighting maestro. Really.  

Berkley_bradyWriter and Director Berkley Brady

NFS: What message do you want audiences to walk away from Dark Nature with? 

Brady: I don’t want to make message movies, but I want to do alchemy. I want people to leave feeling a change starting within, thinking about the movie and the choices each character made. We worked hard to make these characters real and complex, and I think working in genre allows us to do that with a lighter touch than pure drama.  

NFS: Where did you do post? And were there any challenges? 

Brady: We did post in Calgary, AB, which is becoming a horror ghetto! So many great films coming out of here. Our editor lost a family member to COVID-19, so that was a challenge in that we lost time to edit.

We also lost our sound house to other projects—Calgary is booming right now as a location, so crew and post houses are tough to book—but it worked out for the best because we got to work with Propeller on our sound design, and they were a dream to work with.  

NFS: Is there anything else you would like us to know about Dark Nature

Brady: Dark Nature is a creature feature, and I’m proud of it. A lot of thought went into the mythology of the creature, and, for me, the pain and violence of this creature are connected to the land and what has happened/is happening to the land when we don’t protect it.

The creature is as it is because we’ve forgotten how to be good relatives to it. As a Metis woman, the idea of being a good relative—to other people, places, animals, plants, and really everything—is important to me, and I hope that comes through. Everything is about relationships.