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2018 07 24 Dead Night

Dead Night Movie Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Released by Dark Sky Films

Dead Night Poster

Directed by Brad Baruh
Written by Irving Walker and Brad Baruh
2018, 86 minutes, Not Rated
Released on July 27th, 2018

Starring:
Barbara Crampton as Leslie Bison
Brea Grant as Casey Pollack
AJ Bowen as James Pollack
Joshua Hoffman as Jason Pollack
Sophie Dalah as Jessica Pollack
Elise Luthman as Becky Lane
Daniel Roebuck as Jack Sterling
Kay D'Arcy as Lily Lane

Dead Night 01 Dead Night 02

Review:

In the horror genre there is nothing wrong with being exactly one thing: straightforward demonic, pure slasher, gory comedy, et cetera. Oftentimes it will serve to strengthen the film. However, the genre is often hit with that one-dimensionality as a negative connotation, so it's damned refreshing to see a movie like Dead Night mix in elements of different genres in a seamless way with a solid, believable cast.

Originally playing Fantastic Fest 2017 as Applecart, the newly christened Dead Night is the story of the Pollack family, who have come to the titular cabin in the woods to allow their patriarch, James (AJ Bowen, The Sacrament), to rest and recover from his cancer. The house sits on a place of great energy and power. His wife, Casey (Brea Grant, Dexter), believes it will heal him. Their teenage children, Jessica (Sophie Dalah, Satanic) and Jason (Johsua Hoffman, Shameless), are along for the ride. To make things a little more awkward (and typically teenager), Jessica has brought along her friend, Becky (Elise Luthman, Nickelodeon's Henry Danger). When Dad discovers a strange woman unconscious in the snowy woods (the legendary Barabara Crampton, Reanimator), things get weird quickly and turn dangerous and demonic with appalling speed. Furthermore, Dead Night turns the narrative on it's ear by telling the story from two perspectives – real time with the Pollack family and in a visually epistolary style via a reality TV show called Inside Crime, hosted by Jack Sterling (Daniel Roebuck, LOST).

The misdirection and blend of genres is handled deftly by first-time director Brad Baruh, who was an executive producer on Phantasm: Ravager and a producer on the stellar John Dies at the End. The man clearly knows what he wants out of this movie and gets some fine performances (including a small part for everyone's favorite "horror guy", Chase Williamson). At times it is a mystery, at times it borders on a taste of home invasion/slasher, and at times it goes full on creature feature. There's a little something for everyone. That also means it doesn't allow you to get comfortable.

The tone is set with an opening flashback scene that had me feeling a bit nostalgic for Night of the Creeps…and that's never a bad thing! You're not overwhelmed with the practical effects in an all-out gorefest, but you're frequently reminded that this unabashedly a horror film with a cast of horror veterans and rising stars even when the style shifts to the mysterious. It's jarring in a lovely way.

Dead Night 03 Dead Night 04

Dead Night 05 Dead Night 06

I'd be remiss if I didn't heap some love on the nearly ageless and powerful Barbara Crampton. What little aging that has occurred has been like that of a fine wine. She is still gorgeous and uses that beauty to juxtapose a level of subtle creepy that rises from "she's kind of weird" to "WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK?!!" in a span of but a few scenes. She knows the craft, and horror is in her blood. I genuinely hope she continues to grace the genre until she must be physically dragged onto the damn set (although from the looks of it, that won't be anytime soon).

In the continuing trend of movies like Hereditary, the family dynamic is strongly front and center. Unfortunately, it could use a bit more fleshing out in Dead Night, but that is about the harshest criticism I can level at it. Another fifteen or so minutes or running time could've solidified the struggle of the family and tightened the bonds.

Still, the payoff in the ending left me with an old-fashioned, goofy-ass grin on my face. A properly told story should keep you unsure and leave you with an "Oh, shit!" moment. Dead Night fully delivers on the story that it has lain out brick by brick.

Horror aficionados who are in the mood for something that is more than just a mindlessly fun one-trick pony that still brings the pain should be hitting the theaters that show limited release fare and seek out Dead Night. You'll be glad you did.

This is one of those times when I feel privileged to get to screen in advance. I love my job.

Dead Night 07 Dead Night 08

Grades:

Movie: Fourandahalfstars Dead Night Cover
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About The Author
Stuart Monroe
Staff Writer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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