Thursday, July 26, 2018

All Is Calm in Dead Night: A Film Review

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*there are spoilers here.

Director: Brad Baruh.

Writers: Irving Walker and Brad Baruh.

Cast: Elise Luthman, Joshua Hoffman, James Bartz, Mikie Beatty, Joseph Bishara, AJ Bowen, Shauna Case and Jagger Chase.

Good night or Dead Night, the name of this feature, is a euphemism trying to be developed in this creature feature, slasher cum cabin in the wood scenario. Here, the Pollack family are about to arrive at a retreat. James (AJ Bowen) has cancer and the forest sanctuary they are going to has a mystic reputation for healing. Just how that works is uncertain. I can guess that's due to either ley lines or a meteorite that crashed at this spot over a millennia ago. Both are implied. Casey (Brea Grant) and their children, Jessica (Sophie Dalah) and Jason (Joshua Hoffman), are together for some family bonding time. By all indications, James is dying. Tagging along is Jessica’s friend Becky (Elise Luthman) and just why she's there is not well established.

When this family finds a woman face deep in the snow, their assistance takes an ominous and predictable tone. To insert a sudden moment where in the middle of the woods, a mysterious individual is watching a "True Crimes" program on a television with no proper line connecting it to the outside world, I knew this film was going to be a trip into the looking glass. This show is trying to figure out what was going on in the mind of Casey. She's found hovering over the bodies of her family. What we are seeing are not recreations, but rather the events as they truly unfolded. TVs can be used for the paranormal to come through. But this time, we are looking at it, and to know which reality is the prime one is a bit dizzying, if not a neat twist to this sub-genre.

Time has no meaning. There is no sequential format to this plot. This narrative device reveals a few things, but as for which subplot I enjoyed, I wanted to figure out more of the mythology going on. Sure, The Evil Dead (1981) is the grand-daddy; over the years, and through different storytelling mediums, we got to know who the Deadites are. With this work, the evil lacks a name. The cultists are not druids, but are they simply daemons—purveyors of the natural order and not those biblical things who sin against God? I imagine they are the former.

The kills are swift and the splatter is tame by my standards. When I was being groomed by the morbid visions of David Cronenberg, anything I see hitherto is often tame in comparison. This work almost touches on Cronenberg's genius. It simply misses the boat by not going all the way. Instead, it jumps in the direction of nearly answering the mysteries lurking behind Bohemian Grove! This abruptness almost ruined this film for me.

The terror in the woods had me wondering what director and writer Bradford Burah was being inspired by. Irving Walker fine-tuned the work into a screenplay, and somewhere along the way, those details I wanted to know more about were not all translated over. I can only guess this tale is not based on any recognizable folklore from European tradition. Had there been more development of who Leslie Bison (Barbara Crampton) is, I could buy the final act. Instead, it's a mish-mash of ideas that are not fully realized. Netflix's "Ghost Wars" did a better job in how the dead wanted to come back to life, which at least made sense!

An image similar to "Magic the Gathering's: The Dark Heart of the Wood" card should have been used as the poster to sell this work instead of branches forming a grim skull. When this image is prominent throughout this film, the key to selling this film successfully feels missed—and just why it's important is a detail truly missing to elevate this work to a metaphysical level. All I knew is that Bison is the villain. Just who she serves is kept secret until the shocker, and it hardly jolts when the focus is more about Casey's descent into insanity.

Overall: 6 out of 10.

*playing at select theatres and arriving on VOD July 27, 2018.

Sum writes for his own Blog (Otakunoculture) here: Sum at Otakunoculture

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