You know what? There are some films that really aren’t even films. Oh, they have an idea – a loose definition of a plot. Yes, they might have characters. Sure, they’ll have a beginning, middle, and an end, but, when you try to think about any of it? It all just seems to fall apart, slipping like severed meat off the bone. Instead of really delivering a story, some films seem to go on too long … or, in the case of AS NIGHT FALLS, maybe only 77 minutes too long. For all its effort, it ends up feeling like it might have been better served being a 20 minute ‘caper’ with a few laughs instead of an hour-plus stinker with few too many laughs … albeit unintentional ones at that.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and 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’ – no matter how gruesome or unforgiving – then read on …)
AS NIGHT FALLS is one of those rare occasions where I have to rely on the product packaging to tell audiences what the film was actually about because, having just watched it, I’m still completely at a loss: “10-year-old Amelia’s parents think it’s time for her to go to sleep permanently, leaving her broken body in a silent, shallow grave. 50 years later, Mommy and Daddy are back from Hell, intent on wreaking the same deadly discipline on anyone not in bed by nightfall. Sisters Holly and Elizabeth are losing their minds, and their friends are losing their heads. Something evil has crashed the party, but no one knows what they are fighting. When the girls’ brother Charlie arrives, he completes the family group and the kids start to find out what firm parenting really means.”
So far as the narrative is concerned, AS NIGHT FALLS is all over the map. Writer/director Joe Davison would probably have been better served picking a single horror conceit to send-up in this kinda/sorta horror/comedy (???) instead of throwing everything but the kitchen sink … no, wait … that’s in there, too. And that’s the problem: no single driving focus. The film acts like it wants to be taken seriously in its first forty (or so) minutes, and then it suddenly shifts into some type of Scooby-Doo-on-crack tale. That, and the fact that it’s so poorly shot and recorded it’s really hard to make anything more of this near-total wreck.
The characters are flat and dimensionless, and, as personalities go, you could swap one out for the other, and no one would miss a beat. If there’s no one in any lead capacity that the audience is supposed to care about, then the story is little more than action without any emotional investment. We, as even basic voyeurs, want to feel something about these people, especially in horror flicks. Even if its feeling sorry for them as they go from one misfortunate position to the next, we should be drawn in to their adventure/misadventure. Too much of that first half is populated by twentysomethings who – for some reason – keep spouting pop culture references that fortysomethings would use, so, sadly, little of it seems authentic, much less actually funny. As for that second half? It feels as butchered as I wanted to hack these banal characters into, so maybe it wasn’t a total loss.
That’s a shame because, in one respect, the film actually closed with a sentiment that I admired – a brave chick intends to drive her cruiser straight to Hell in order to recover her lost little sister. At that point, however, I didn’t care about any of them, so the soppiness fell flat.
AS NIGHT FALLS (2010) is produced by Crown Productions, Pop Gun Pictures, Fairway Film Alliance, FEAR FILM Motion Picture Studios, and Us and the Other Us Productions. DVD distribution is being handled by Breaking Glass Pictures and Vicious Circle Films. As for the technical specifications, blech! Far too much of the picture was shot in shaki-cam and/or unnecessary close-up, and this has to be one of the most uneven sound jobs I’ve ever had the misfortune of sitting through. (Sorry, folks, but I gotta be honest.) Dialogue was difficult to hear consistently, and the audio levels were horrible mismatched from spoken word to music, so much so it was hard to understand what some folks were saying. As for the special features? Well, if you’re interested (I wasn’t), there are a few, including a fair amount of behind-the-scenes shorts, a short film, a music video, the trailer, and some other items of interest advertised from Breaking Glass Pictures.
(NOT REALLY) RECOMMENDED. It’s rare – it really is – for me to sit through a horror/thriller/comedy and come up with absolutely nothing of substance to say about it, but AS NIGHT FALLS? You really had me going. I suppose I could point out that the in-camera practical horror effects are quite nice, especially given the obvious low-budget, shot-on-a-bad-weekend feeling to the entire production; so I guess that’ll have to do.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Breaking Glass Pictures provided me with a DVD copy of AS NIGHT FALLS by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.