Predictable Yet Entertaining MISCHIEF NIGHT Worth A Look
Dec 30, 2013
Fact: the 1980’s were a tremendous boon for the home entertainment industry. The explosion of VHS brought an incredible influx of properties to the marketplace, and, despite some of what you’ll read about many of these forgotten flicks of yesteryear, several of them were quite good. It’s been said that the emergence of the digital recorder will inevitable produce the same boomtown today, though I’ve yet to see any clear signs that’ll happen. Granted, it’s already happened (if not still happening) in the horror film industry, but that’s always been the case: any Tom, Dick, or Harry with a camera can slap together a slasher flick, although it’s rare to get a really good effort distinguishing itself from the pack.
However, I’ve a suggestion for you: get out to the video store (assuming you still have one) and give MISCHIEF NIGHT a spin in the DVD player. To my surprise, it’s a surprisingly entertaining old-school slasher flick that makes solid use of set, character, and script.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Em Walton (played by a wholesome Noell Coet) is still reeling from the aftermath of an automobile accident that, nine years previous, took the life of her mother. In fact, Em is continuing to struggle with a form of psychosomatic blindness that even her psychiatrist (an interesting cameo by the always reliable Ally Walker). Her father, David (Daniel Hugh Kelly), is also hoping to get on with his life; he’s finally dating again, but, like all doting fathers, he hates leaving his daughter at home alone … especially on Mischief Night … as that’s when the boys who will be boys playfully terrorize residents with all kinds of benign trickery. But this Mischief Night is different, as it brings out an ax-wielding maniac who has his sights set on hurting Em!
Truth be told, there’s probably very little in MISCHIEF NIGHT that you haven’t seen before. It bears a lot of similarity to 1971’s SEE NO EVIL, starring a young Mia Farrow as a blind woman pursued by a homicidal maniac. And there’s a trend in the home-based horror stories that started a few years back, of which you may’ve seen THE PURGE (2013) or even THE STRANGERS (2008). MISCHIEF NIGHT is much the same, but it’s given a breath of fresh air with Coet’s believable performance as the blind (but spunky) damsel in distress.
To his credit, writer/director Richard Schenkman brought a nice ‘workman’ quality to both the script and the filming process. Admittedly, these might be cookie cutter characters, but he gives Em just enough substance to make her seem like someone you could know (or would like to know), and he doesn’t short dear old dad David either. They may not be fully three-dimensional, but each has an arc to the past that relates to their present (how they’re dealing with it, as well as how they confront the killers). Also, I’d have to give kudos to the fact that despite being entirely shot within a single large house, Schenkman goes to honorable lengths to make use of every room, every nook, and every corridor; it’s rare to see a director wring that much effect out of simple real estate!
Sometimes being in the middle of the road is a respectable place to be. Rather than trying to the limelight, MISCHIEF NIGHT is exactly the kind of direct-to-DVD release (it may’ve had a token release, but I couldn’t find any info online to substantiate it) that made the 1980’s such a great decade for home entertainment. It establishes a relatively slim premise very quickly, and it delivers on it; when it comes to slasher flicks, who could ask for anything more?
MISCHIEF NIGHT (2013) is produced by Mischief Night and Ruthless Pictures. DVD distribution is being handled by Image Entertainment. As for the technical specifications, the film looks and sounds very solid consistently (there was only a single sequence that I backed up as I wanted to clearly hear some rather muddled dialogue). As for the special features, there’s a nice (although brief) behind-the-scenes short (it’s all a bit obligatory), if that sort of thing interests you. Otherwise, that’s all there is, none too surprising.
RECOMMENDED. Look, if slasher films are your thing, then you could do an awful lot worse than the technically proficient MISCHIEF NIGHT. Sure, I have some quibbles with characterization (I tend to like mine a bit more fully fleshed out), and I could pick at the bones of the routineness of it all (it’s relatively predictable) … but I’d also have to be honest in admitting that it kept my interest from the start to the finish. That could be because I thought Noell Coet’s performance was quite good as the kinda/sorta blind girl who finds herself using what smarts she can muster against some masked evildoers. And I’ve always rooted for Daniel Hugh Kelly, who deserves to get more work; he does a nice turn here as the father who’s only looking out for his little girl.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Image Entertainment provided me with a DVD copy of MISCHIEF NIGHT by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.