28th Aug2017

Frightfest 2017: ’3rd Night’ Review

by Nik Holman

Stars: Jesse McGinn, Robert Hartburn, Bruce Denny | Written and Directed by Adam Graveley

3rd-night-poster

By the end, I wasn’t sure what to make of this movie. I knew the production was very good. The director was skilled. The actors were strong from start to finish. Yet, I was never scared, and even a little angry. The opening couple of minutes were suspenseful enough, if nothing new; a pretty, young woman racing through the woods being pursued by a sledgehammer wielding killer. “I’m pregnant,” she pleads before the hammer drops. We watch her bare feet twitch in death spasms as the opening credits roll…

3rd Night begins with Meagan and Jonathan; a young, attractive married couple who have moved out of the city and into the country to run an orchard and start a family. They are both likeable and very much in love, which makes the events of the next three nights all the more painful to watch. The cat soon goes missing. Then threatening, yet whimsical, notes are found around the property. And is someone outside in the dark, watching from beyond the trees?

Throughout the movie we are given the Watcher’s point of view. We watch Meagan and Jonathan make love, we watch Meagan undress. Giving credit to the film’s director and writer, Adam Graveley, in the hands of a lesser director these scenes might seem like exploitation but they never comes across that way. We hear the soft laughter of children echo from some distant memory. We see vague images of pigs for reasons I’m still not sure. 3rd Night tries to be scary, or at least creepy, but this movie feels more like an imitation of a horror movie, as if Graveley picked pieces of other horror movies that he liked and wrote a script around them. Because of this, while the directing and acting are solid throughout, the script crumbles.

Early in the film, Jonathan and Meagan are having dinner and chatting about the movers. Jonathan gets up, walks over to a spot on the wall, and taps on it. The wall is hollow. Strange, because he thought all the walls were brick. Obviously, that kind of heavy-handed exposition must mean something. Why did he tap on that exact part of the wall? Why did he tap on the wall at all? I must have missed something so I played that scene 3 times. So why did he tap on the wall? Because the script told Jonathan to. There is zero reason for him to get up and do that, but that spot is referenced again at the end, so we have to establish it now. And this isn’t the only time the script overrides logic. In true horror movie fashion, Meagan is upset over the random notes while Jonathan is casually dismissive. Yet, when the second note comments on how beautiful Meagan’s breasts are, Jonathan chuckles and agrees. Agrees! With the Peeping Tom! Meagan is obviously upset that someone watched her change, but Jonathan laughs it off. I was so angry at his flippant attitude to her being violated. Through almost the entire movie Jonathan refuses to acknowledge the notes are anything more than the prank of bored kids. It is obvious when the script is in charge and not the characters. Logic is thrown out the window for plot sake.

After watching, I researched the movie online and read some interviews with Graveley, 3rd Night is his first feature film and on a second viewing, I can tell. There are a lot of tropes; from old photographs with peoples eyes scratched out, to the missing cat, to the killer’s point of view. It feels as it Graveley thought some of these ideas were fresh, but were actually baked 40 years ago. In interviews, Graveley had stated that he wanted to make a movie where we are put in the Watcher’s head, to see what the Watcher sees. Halloween already did that. So did Friday the 13th.The Watcher’s POV shot isn’t a bad thing, it’s just nothing new.

While he may be naïve in thinking he is more original than he really is, he is a skilled director who made a competent, paint-by-numbers home invasion film. Maybe working with a more seasoned writer will allow Graveley to focus more on his true gift of directing. I believe experience will bring out the best in him and I look forward to his future projects.

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