13th Aug2018

Fantasia 2018: ‘Dead Night’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Brea Grant, AJ Bowen, Barbara Crampton, Sophie Dalah, Elise Luthman, Joshua Hoffman, Daniel Roebuck, Joy Osmanski, Alison Haislip, Sky Soleil, Alexander Ward, Dianna Miranda, Ryan Schwartzman | Written by Irving Walker | Directed by Brad Baruh

dead_night

I can see some people already rolling their eyes when they hear about another ‘cabin in the woods’ style horror movie. Yes there has been a lot of them in the last 5, 10, even 20 years but plenty of good ones. I was hoping Dead Night would be one of these good ones.

It at least tries to do things differently. Not long after it begins, we are told what is going to happen in the movie via a TV documentary. Those kind of shows that explain ‘real-life’ crime and have ‘re-enactments’ when there’s no actual footage. But this show only shows one side of the story and the movie itself shows something that turns out completely different. The story they are both covering is that a family have been murdered in a cabin in the woods. The mother has survived and there is also a missing girl that was a friend of the daughter.

It doesn’t take too long for Dead Night to feel a little bit different to a regular horror film. Things get pretty weird after about half an hour. But weird in a good way. The introduction of Barbara Crampton’s character, Leslie Bison, has much to do with the strangeness. She is found unconscious in the forest and once she has come round, she has a strange aura about her. Crampton’s performance is really good. It’s a role that could easily have come across a lot sillier but she plays it seriously and it works. Like Crampton, some of the main cast should be well known to genre fans. Brea Grant has appeared in Dexter, Halloween II and A Ghost Story. Here, playing the mother, is a challenging role and she seems to pull it off with is. Desperate to help her family but also a little bit psychotic! The father is played by AJ Bowen (The Guest, The Sacrament, You’re Next and many more) and he’s also really enjoyable in the role. Adding a little bit of dark comedy that somehow works.

Dead Night’s ace up its sleeve though is its gore. Firstly there’s plenty of it but never too much that you get bored of seeing it. But on top of that it’s really good gore and for several reasons. It’s usually inventive, the kills are mostly pretty original and some come from out of nowhere. It also just looks great. A little bit of CGI here and there but mainly practical effects (from what I could work out anyway) and it’s all the better for it. Every time there’s a kill, every horror fan will have a huge smile on their face. Clearly a lot of care and thought has gone onto this aspect of the film and it proves to be the major highlight on a film that has plenty of highlights.

Dead Night is continuously entertaining and full of moments you’ll remember long after the credits have rolled.

With horror getting more and more popular, it’s good to see indie filmmakers producing great original horror movies. This is director Brad Baruh’s first feature film and by adding bizarreness to something familiar he somehow makes things creepier. I will be checking out whatever he does next… And with its European Premiere at this years Frighfest in London coming up, Dead Night is sure to go down well with that crowd.

***** 4/5

Dead Night screened at this years Fantasia Festival on July

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