THE DEAD OF NIGHT (2021)
Directed and written by Robert Dean.
Starring Jake Etheridge, Colby Crain, Leah Bezozo, Kyle Overstreet, Matthew Lawrence, Lance Henriksen, Charlotte McKee, Darius Homayoun, Merritt C. Glover, Boots Southerland, Jack Lutz, Jesse Kinser, Ellen Gerstein, Mark Speno, Chris Ranney, Tim Stafford, Marla Robison, Brian Patrick Buckley, Harrison Wirstrom, Rudy Bentz, Sid Goodloe, Connie Hanley
A rancher named Tommy (Jake Etheridge) helps his sister June (Colby Crain) pack up and leave a small country town in New Mexico, but they encounter a pair of wandering killers in animal masks stalking them for their sick pleasure.
THE DEAD OF NIGHT is not your typical stalk and slash thriller. While I appreciate its back to basics, slasher-style that reminded me a bit of THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN by way of THE STRANGERS, it sort of just moseys around its narrative from one place to another and eventually happens upon some action and suspense when its good and ready. The pacing is way off from the beginning and feels as if it were re-edited a bit somewhere along the line, as there is a short first kill scene before the credits and then a second extended scene that feels like another opening kill sequence before we even meet the main characters of the story. There’s an awful lot of fat to trim from this tale and with it running about an hour and a half, that doesn’t leave a lot of story left over. There are long scenes set in a diner featuring Lance Henriksen. It’s great to see the actor do his gruff thing, but these scenes ultimately lead to nothing. I get it. If you cast Lance in a role, you use every scene you can with him, but when it’s just him working in a diner and chatting with customers, it doesn’t make for compelling viewing.
THE DEAD OF NIGHT isn’t bloodless. But its not graphic either. The masked killers seem to be brutal, but most of the carnage is off camera. This is a bare-bones slasher story and if you don’t mind the wait, the standoff between the two feral killers and the ranchers is decently done with some nice use of the wide open, dark spaces. There are some leaps in logic for some of the characters, given the dire situation they find themselves in that occur late in the film. THE DEAD OF NIGHT is one of those films that shows promise, but it a bit of a fixer upper in terms of pacing and script, which is slow and sparce.