TAKE BACK THE NIGHT (2021)
Directed by Gia Elliott.
Written by Gia Elliott, Emma Fitzpatrick.
Starring Emma Fitzpatrick, Angela Gulner, Jennifer Lafleur, Sibongile Mlambo, Corina Kinnear, Kati Sharp, Natalie D’Amico, Jess Varley, Mecca Morgan White, Richard McDowell, Kwanza Gooden, Tony Sgro, Danielle Perez, Shawn M. Richardz, Chelsea Harris, Kai Choyce, Ariel Light
After being attacked by a monster after an art show, party-girl Jane (Emma Fitzpatrick) goes on a long road to recovery and vows revenge against the beast. But Jane’s biggest challenge is convincing others that this monster exists.
TAKE BACK THE NIGHT is a mature and thoughtful take on sadly, all too common subject matter, namely separating the victim of a crime from the character of that person. It’s not as much about rape and violent crime itself, though it does play a major part in the story. Moreso, it is about one person’s journey to recovery that doesn’t necessarily fit the template of what a victim should look and act like. Jane is a bold party-girl who is very concerned about her online presence. She barely takes a break after her attack and decides to press on, most likely before she really should. Shucking the advice of the police officer investigating the case and her own sister, she doesn’t seek out therapy. She just tries to go on with her life. This doesn’t match the quivering victim everyone thinks someone should be after a violent crime and that bothers quite a few people that satellite her, some to the point of claiming she faked the crime in order to gain social media status. This subject matter is dealt with in an even and confident hand, communicating the complex message very well.
At the same time, TAKE BACK THE NIGHT wants to be a monster movie. At first, I thought the monster was going to be a metaphor. Because the events of Jane’s attack are hazy due to the fact that she wasn’t sober and she received a head injury, she viewed her attacker as a cloudy formless creature with dirty fingers and sharp teeth. It’s a striking image. I thought what was going to happen was that the monster would increasingly take shape and by the end, it would be an actual human being who attacked her as Jane’s memory took shape. Instead, TAKE BACK THE NIGHT leans full force into the monster idea. It truly is a monster. One who has attacked many women and scarred them deeply. As the story goes on, this becomes a tale of someone trying to convince the world that the monster exists. It becomes less of a personal tale about self-discovery, with Jane realizing that her lifestyle might have been putting herself into danger and more about the blame towards an exterior force.
I’m not trying to judge Jane for her lifestyle, but sleeping with randos in the bathroom at a party and then walking alone and drunk down a dark alley really doesn’t show good decision making skills on Jane’s part. Focusing the blame on the attacker is true, but one must also acknowledge mistakes made in order to avoid this problem again. And Jane doesn’t do that. Instead, she gets more reckless. Going right back out alone in another dark alley seemingly the next night after her attack. Seeking out this supernatural monster as a personal quest to prove she is not lying. These are all actions that put herself in further danger. She wasn’t asking for it. But instead of learning from mistakes, she doubles down in order to prove she is right. This is an interesting angle to approach the subject matter but moves a vast distance from this being a cautionary tale and more of a tale of a righteous knight on a futile quest.
The result is TAKE BACK THE NIGHT being an uneven and schizophrenic movie. It feels like it doesn’t know what it wants to be. The first half feels like it wants to be a psychological thriller, but then it turns into a full force into fantasy. And by doing so, it undercuts the message of empowerment and responsibility that it felt like it was going for in the beginning. Points for being unpredictable, but this film feels like the first and second halves are made from different drafts of a script or even two completely different writers.
The acting is strong. Emma Fitzpatrick, who I interviewed ages ago when she starred in THE COLLECTION (the sequel to THE COLLECTOR), gives a powerful leading performance as does THE MIDNIGHT SWIM’s Jennifer Lafleur as a tough cop who wants to believe Jane even when all evidence tells her not to. Angela Gulner also is strong here as Jane’s more responsible sister who is baffled at her sister’s recklessness. Across the board, TAKE BACK THE NIGHT is a powerfully acted film. Just one that seems to get lost in what message it is trying to tell by the end of it all.