27th Jun2019

‘Party Night’ DVD Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Ryan Poole, Tommie Vegas, Billy Brannigan, Joe Grisaffi, Destinie Orndoff, Lawrence McKinney, Drew Shotwell, Laurel Toupal, Jimmy Phillips | Written and Directed by Troy Escamilla

party-night-dvd-cover

Six friends head to prom, enjoying life and with plans to party the night away afterwards at a secluded house. It’s horror-slasher 101, really, as a premise. Something we’ve seen and heard many times over the years. That isn’t always a bad thing though, because sometimes you want a slasher that follows a basic plot, something you can chill out with and enjoy without any real surprises. Party Night gives you that here, a modern slasher with old-school slasher values. It’s teenage care-free types, a couple of teenage serious-types, and a house off the beaten track. Add a murderous psychopath to the cocktail and BAM… you have yourself a slasher-fest.

With low-budget horror cinema there are things you expect, and if you’re a fan of low-budget horror, then there are things you almost want from your movies. You don’t always get the most incredible acting, nor do you get the highest quality effects, and there are times when the cinematography isn’t what you’d find in bigger-budget titles. This is all part and parcel of it. To throw these elements into reasons to not enjoy things is kind of pointless. At this point, after seeing hundreds of low-budget and b-movie horror flicks, I know what I’m getting at the base-level most of the time, and find it pretty irrelevant to take those things into account. You just won’t enjoy movies like this if you look at those things every time. So, aside from those elements, how is the plot? How’s the writing? The story itself? Is the gore and horror effective? These are things that, regardless of budget, can still be excellent.

Party Night is shot beautifully. It’s slick, smooth and easy on the eyes, that’s for sure. The positioning of the camera when shooting around corners and framing characters is done really effectively. The silhouetting of the villain was something I thought was done really well, and created a creepy image of impending doom. While I previously mentioned the acting levels and how it doesn’t really tend to effect my enjoyment of low-budget cinema, there’s a mixed bag when it comes to the chemistry between characters. Some don’t mesh, some do. This is all down, most-likely, to the confidence of the actors. I thought Travis and Molly, played by Billy Brannigan (Shay) and Tommie Vegas (Another Evil Night) respectively, were very good. Solid actors who did a fine job, and when they shared the screen it was, in my view, the best level of performance in the film.

Let’s talk CGI. Or let’s actually talk… NO CGI! I was happy to see the use of practical effects in Party Night. The blood and gore was solid and I’m always pleased when horror films shy away from CGI blood and go this route. I thought the kills were mostly done well, and the slice-and-dice gore was on-point. A definite positive that Party Night has going for it.

Troy Escamilla both wrote, produced and directed this flick. The fact that this was the Iowan’s first feature film speaks to his creativity and ability. I’ve seen debut horror flicks in the past that miss a hundred times and hit once or twice, and while Party Night has it’s misses, it hits more, for me, and Escamilla does a damn fine job behind the camera and holding the pen. The writing has realism to it, characters speaking about friendship and moving on with their lives amidst a terrible night of murder brings some depth to things. When the people on screen don’t feel real in any way, it’s hard to care about them, and while we don’t necessarily learn a lot about these guys, there is still effort made to give layers to them, and make them feel like people who have a bond with one another. I appreciated that. Dialogue is often juvenile and silly, but these are teenagers on the night of their prom, so I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t be having intellectual conversations about philosophy and science, generally. Not to say that everybody speaks in this way, or acts like these kids did, on prom night, but a nod to 1980s slasher flicks wouldn’t be complete without plot devices like “guys trying to sleep with their girlfriends by using terrible lines”.

One of the things I struggled with a little was the sound. There were a few moments where I struggled to hear what the characters were even saying, which was a touch problematic. It didn’t particularly hinder my knowing what was going on, but if a character is speaking I kinda want to know what they’re saying. Sometimes it was just way too muted, and sometimes there was music covering up voices that seemed to be meant to be heard. This wasn’t regular, but it did happen on a few occasions, so that could have been altered in post-production to make things a little more polished.

The DVD from Wild Eye Releasing is pretty nice too. It looks good, the cover-art is awesome, and it shows Wild Eye Releasing is a company that’s high up on the list when it comes to releasing movies that horror fans want to see, but other companies simply don’t offer.

There’s drinking, sex and murder in this homage to 80s horror, and make no mistake about it, this gives one big knowing wink, its heart fully embedded in the genre’s past. It knows it’s cliched, it knows it follows a plot we’ve seen before. To put it down for these facts is silly. Party Night, for all its flaws, knows what it is and is unashamed of that. This made for an enjoyable experience, for me. If you’re after an old-school hack-and-slash horror movie that does what it says on the tin then look no further. It doesn’t have a budget to allow certain things, but it does a lot with what it has at its disposal. If you dig your shot-on-video or low budget horror films and are craving something else, then Party Night is worth your time.

Party Night is available on DVD now from Wild Eye Releasing.

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