Monday, December 12, 2011

Night Drive and Bringing Africa's Best to Horror: A Movie Review

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*a screener of this film was provided by Osiris Entertainment.

Director: Justin Head.

Writers: Justin Head and C.A. van Aswegen.

Cast: Brandon Auret, Christopher Beasley and Susana Kennedy.

Night Drive is a unique film from South Africa that deals with South African fears and a new approach to witchcraft. As well, lush cinematography and a huge group of characters keeps Justin Head's first film in an interesting place. That place is full of conflict. Gorehounds may even be slightly shocked by the large amount of violence and bloodshed in this piece. This is a great film that will be remembered long after the final credits roll.

And you might even experience a sleepless night or two as Sean, a fallen police officer, tries to keep a group on safari together. This is no easy task when your passengers are a coked up weight lifter, a suicidal rape victim, a cowardly internet dater and a few other malcontents. Luckily Sean's father, Jack, is along for the ride. However, two against a small army of roving poachers seems inadequate, especially when Sean shows signs of post traumatic stress syndrome. Sean has killed one too many people on the job. Meanwhile the Hyena Man lurks just outside of firelight ready to strike at the heart of this bickering group.

At one point, this reviewer counted eleven characters both minor and major in this production. This is a large cast to keep track of. Yet, the focus is mostly on Sean and on his flashbacks from a hostage taking gone wrong. He gets to face his demons on this night safari in a similar situation. Ian is another major character, but really he is more of a nuisance. Recovering from a home invasion, Ian uses drug fueled aggression to deal with disappearing travellers. He is more of an obstacle to rescue than anything else. The Hyena Man makes an appearance here and there, but his big reveal comes in the finale. This character practices black magic while offering body parts to some unseen god of destruction. He is at his violent best when amputating those around him while they are still alive. These three characters each come in conflict with the other with only one man left standing.

And stories from Africa do not develop in the same linear way that North American films do. Instead of putting all of the emphasis on a single hero or a single plot point, there is a focus on the group and how they work together or fall apart together. The many subplots hold the interest too. As well, the cinematography of South Africa is breathtaking and the dangers of this country are many. Several of the characters fear an animal attack, but the greatest predators in this film are the gun toting people. The mythos of Africa is also different from western countries. The supernatural or supposed evil elements come from or are connected to the animal nature of the country. The witchcraft serves to erradicate humanity from one of nature's final preserves, with one of the villains dressed in a menacing leather and bone mask. There is also unpredictability in the lawlessness of this place, which does not seem entirely fictional. The presence of poachers and guerrilla fighters heightens the danger in this film.

Finally, horror fans of the gorehound variety are going to find a lot to interest them in this film. There are eye opening instances of genital mutilation, gross gun misfirings, amputations, stabbings, shootings and torture. This reviewer has not seen this much gore in a film in quite awhile. Needless to say, sleep is out of the question. The African approach to violence, at least in this film, is to use it frequently to shocking affect.

Night Drive is a very strong and impactful first showing from director Head and writer C.A. van Aswegen. While this film will not likely win Academy Awards (horror films do poorly at the Academy Awards), horror and thriller fans will find some excitement in this nighttime safari. Full of vicious attacks, complex characters, and a fresh take on the genre, Night Drive should be seen by a wide audience when it releases on DVD December 20th through Osiris Entertainment. Just do not watch this film late at night or you can expect to see Hyena Man in the shadows of your dreams.

Overall: 7.75 out of 10 (strong writing, well written characters, well paced, lots of conflict, many subplots, thrilling overall).

*the release will include a behind the scenes featurette, an actors hit the gym montage, deleted scenes and several other featurettes.

Night Drive's fan page:

Night Drive on Facebook

The Night Drive homepage:

Night Drive's Official Website

The film at Osiris Entertainment (distributor):

Night Drive at Osiris Ent.

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