Lost After Dark Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Anchor Bay Entertainment
Directed by Ian Kessner
Written by Ian Kessner and Bo Ransdell
2014, 85 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on September 1st, 2015
Kendra Leigh Timmins as Adrienne
Elise Gatien as Jamie
Justin Kelly as Sean
Stephen James as Wesley
Eve Harlow as Marilyn
Lanie McAuley as Heather
Alexander Calvert as Johnnie
Jesse Camacho as Tobe
David Lipper as Adrienne’s Father
Robert Patrick as Vice Principal Cunningham
Adrienne and her friends plan a secret weekend getaway to her father’s hunting cabin, but when their ride breaks down along the way, the kids are forced to take shelter in an abandoned farmhouse. Rumors of a local legend acquire an ominous significance once a mysterious stranger begins slaughtering the teens one by one. It makes sense here to borrow the tag line from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: “Who will survive and what will be left of them,” as the picture allows the villain to make quick work of the majority of the cast in standard slasher fashion. Lost After Dark is one of the most devout love letters to 1980s horror I have seen in years, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well the filmmakers handled the material. The characters and the rest of the plot do not really matter, since this is all about style over substance and the filmmakers nail it, flaws and all.
Lost After Dark succeeds where many other retro-slasher throwbacks fail, in part due to its dedication to the source material. All of the tropes of the thirty-year-old subgenre are lovingly on display here as director Ian Kessner forces his high school archetypes to square off against a psychotic cannibal in a familiar isolated farmhouse location. The script, co-written by Kessner and Bo Ransdell, approaches the tale as though it is fresh, and develop a genuine set of thrills by playing everything straight. There are no obvious knowing winks to the camera and the dialogue is not at all self-referential. One clever addition finds the characters sharing the first names of famous slasher directors paired with their lead actresses. The screenplay does include some of the less than popular standard elements from the era, one involving a dog and the other focusing on the adults searching for the teens that ultimately prove worthless time fillers, but these are no more egregious than the police subplot found in something like Prom Night.
The cast of relative newcomers all do a fine job without exception. The only recognizable face in the lot is Robert Patrick (The Faculty) as perennial ball-buster Vice Principal Cunningham, a perfect sendup of authority figures of the era. While Patrick may at first stick out as stunt casting in a group of unknowns, this too follows in the tradition of slashers featuring a fading celebrity in a supporting role, as is the case in titles like Happy Birthday to Me, Terror Train, The Prowler and Friday the 13th, just to name a few. Genre fans will recognize director Rick Rosenthal (Halloween II) in a small cameo as the town sheriff, but the man is not known for his acting skills. Kessner’s best coup is the hiring of cinematographer Curtis Peterson (Food of the Gods 2), who built an impressive résumé as a camera assistant in the early 1980s. Some may complain the film is too dark, but Peterson perfectly captures the atmosphere of genre pictures like Humongous and Curtains. There is also much to be praised in the (obvious) decision to defer to practical make-up effects over CGI for the slightly gory murder set-pieces.
It is impressive how perfectly replicated essential elements including hair, make-up, wardrobe, music and lighting are accomplished. The occasionally awkward story beats of the script, the confines of the character archetypes and the stalk-and-slash mentality of the killer all work in homage to the source material. With the lack of immediate rescue opportunities and the reversal of some traditional clichés, Lost After Dark is likely to entertain both newcomers and seasoned genre fans alike. As I stated earlier, some things don’t pay off – I could do without the meandering adults, and the dog is a worthless addition included only for a cruel punchline that the rest of the film is better than. Given that I have somehow managed to defend the shortcomings of the picture, it should come as no surprise when I recommend this title as a fun way to spend a Friday night with a group of horror enthusiasts.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, this transfer features an impressive amount of detail, considering how much of the picture is shot in low-light environments. The bright wardrobe colors pop and flesh tones appear natural throughout.
The Dolby True HD 5.1 track makes full use of the rear channels during the more suspenseful moments of the film as characters struggle to avoid the killer through the woods and the creaky farmhouse and barn locations. Music cues are effective without stepping on dialogue levels.
English and Spanish subtitles are offered for anyone in need.
There are no special features on this disc.
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