I have the utmost respect for indie directors who slavishly work their butts off to pry the doors open, if only an inch, for their work to germinate among the populace of Hollywood horror giants. It is a surprising trend we find ourselves, as we have come to expect Hollywood level blockbusters, while at the same time, we herald the greats of the 70s-80s, in which many (if not all) were low budget, no name directors. How can we love and cherish the old while expecting Hollywood-esk films today? Have we become ultra-critical? Who is really to blame? We buy the tickets, do we not? We write the reviews, do we not? Hollywood only understands one thing, cash money. So, if we’re on the prowl for the movies of old, the ones we hold dear and sacred, those low-budget, non-Hollywood movies, then why are we so dependent on Hollywood supplying those movies for us today? We shouldn’t. And with that being said, we also shouldn’t expect to find these low-budget pictures in theaters. Consider It Follows. Say what you will about the hype-factor, but It Follows took a freaking long time to reach U.S. theaters, and even then the movie only released to a select few. Since then, it has become a type of “cult” film, and I’m using the term “cult” loosely. My point being, there are plenty of indie movies to nibble on that are not releasing to theaters, and if they are, only to a select few and only for a short while. Consider Dark Was the Night. I wished I’d gone to see this one in theaters when I had the chance. Good moody movie flicks deserve the kindling of the big screen. Alas, I did not. Recently, Netflix added this one to their growing collecting of indie horror movies. Over the weekend, I gave it a go. Here is my review.
Initially released back in October 2014, Dark Was the Night opens on a logging community where a few loggers have not checked in. The boss goes in search of the missing crew only to discover something else, something never before seen evil. Just south in Madden Woods, sheriff Paul Shields deals with a recent tragedy along with a growing mystery in his small densely populated town, who wake one morning and discover hoof-like tracks running throughout the small community, unlike any animal they’d seen before. People are obviously starting to panic. Wild speculation, from demonic to some folklore-esk creature whose stories have been told haunting the woods. The sheriff, suffering the loss of a son, ignores the incident, believing the event to be nothing more than a prank gone too far. His deputy, Donny, believes otherwise. Through the course of the movie, sightings of the creature begin to dwell on the frightening community. Sheriff Shields will need to let go of the past if he wants to save those in the present.
Dark Was the Night is a very moody and gloomy film with excellent character developments and top-notch acting, especially from up and coming actor, Kevin Durand. The color scheme is very bleak, and it is well-intended. And the twist at the end is very provocative of the nihilist endings of the great horror movies of old. But Dark Was the Night is a movie you shouldn’t expect to find tons of action. This is drama turned horror. There are no “jump scares,” nor any other typical horror trope many directors fall into. This isn’t spectacle, this is human drama. We’re following the story of a man who is suffering the greatest tragedy a parent can endure, the loss of a child. With that said, the movie certainly lacks in some areas. The pacing at times becomes boring and dull. The build up is slow with little pay off at the end. And the use of CGI and overall design for the creature is somewhat disappointing. The best parts are the moments when we only see a shadow or a glimpses or simply just hearing the thing hoofing up the stairs. And there ARE moments of dread in these spooky “where is it” shots. I liked the setting in those remote pine woods town, though I could have used more of the town itself, though I cannot quite put my finger on what’s really missing, but I feel like something is. The characters are well developed, perhaps the town needed a bit more finish.
Overall Dark Was the Night was entertaining. The ending certainly had the “oh shit” moment. The acting, very well done. For pacing and script, not bad, but could have used some improvements.
My Rating: 3/5
I was never a huge Freddy Krueger fan. Now don’t get my wrong. I enjoyed Dream Warriors as much as the next guy. But old scar face never really did it for me. Maybe he was too comical for my brooding teen drama years. I was a much too serious horror fan, in retrospect. Regardless, Friday the 13th was my main slasher squeeze. Loved me some Jason. Watched the movies. Read the books (yup, there was a very cool short lived book series out that are actually high dollar collectibles now). And played the video game (damn that NES!). Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to gaze upon the hockey masked killer on the big screen. However, I did experience the machete wielding silent Bob on glorious VHS. But this was long before your time, I’m sure. Being a late 80’s mostly 90’s horror kid, this was the reality of watching horror. Most of everything good had already been released. If you wanted to watch the classics, you had to watch it on VHS. And if you couldn’t sneak into the theater because some Nazi was working the ticket counter, you had to wait and watch the flick at home or at a friends house. Though I love and adore the movie theater experience, VHS was a good fall back… Where was I going with all this?
So, in my younger years, my favorite part in the Friday the 13th series was: Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood. Why? I’m glad you asked. For starters, allow me to parry with my own question: is part VII still my favorite among the Friday series’? No. Part VII is no longer drawn with a heart inside my locker. Why? I’m glad you asked that too. But lets take this one step at a time and begin with why it was my favorite and then move on from there. Good? Great! Grand! NO YELLING ON THE BUS!
Directed by makeup effects artist John Carl Buechler, the seventh in the long-running, grisly horror series was far from the last, although the climactic fate of its antagonist would seem to suggest a final send-off. Lar Park Lincoln stars as Tina Shepard, a teenager with uncontrolled telekinetic powers. As a girl vacationing at Camp Crystal Lake, Tina killed her abusive father with the use of her mental abilities. Years later, seeking intensive counseling from manipulative, greedy psychologist Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser), Tina agrees to participate in a radical therapy that takes her back to Camp Crystal Lake. Unfortunately, Tina’s psychic skills rouse the slumbering Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder) from his watery grave and, in typically bloody fashion, the vengeful spook begins dispatching the randy teenagers partying in a house nearby. As Tina attempts to stop Jason’s slaughter with the use of her powers, the mass-murdering ghoul encounters his toughest opponent yet. Friday the 13th, Part VII: The New Blood was often referred to by series fans as “Jason vs. Carrie,” an apropos reference to Tina’s strong similarity to the main character in the horror classic Carrie (1976). ~ Karl Williams, Rovi (pulled from Rotten Tomatoes).
For the win:
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood was my favorite for a very simple reason: telekinesis. Yup. For starters, yes I was and still am a huge Marvel, X-Men, mutant comic book nerd. And Star Wars as well. The notion of moving objects with ones mind intrigues me and ushers many a lazy fantasy of fetching sodas (beer now) from the fridge without ever having to leave the couch. And perhaps a little more homicidal, for those oh so slow drivers on the interstate, or that one hot rod who thinks every damn lane is his. With just a little wave of the hand and we’ll see how fast he can go! Hahahaha!!! (clears throat) Sorry about that. Where were we? Oh yes. Part VII. Having a character with telekinetic abilities is a new twist for the tired and true slasher. This is probably why I loved Gabriel Gray so much in Heroes. I’m actually really surprised no one has capitalized on this yet. A serial killer with telekinetic abilities…? Scratch that, ignore everything that you’ve seen here! Move along, move along.
Tina Shepard (played by the oh so innocent looking Lar Park Lincoln) is a very Carrie-esk vulnerable character packed with plenty of “I killed my daddy but I didn’t mean to” issues. And through most of the film she is awkward and antisocial. Much like most of us horror nerds, right? (Coughs) Never mind. But then towards the end she ends up kicking butt and using her supernatural powers to not only douse Jason in gasoline and light the torch, but also to raise the fucking dead!!! Yup! How else do you think corpse dad comes to the rescue at the end? Oh — SPOILERS!
If psychic kid was the the frosting, then Jason played by the ever impressive Kane Hodder (His first donning of the hockey mask) and his tank like demeanor and tool-shed of murder was the chocolate. Jason, as he should be, was an entertaining character, and though he’s the guy who never says anything, Kane’s portrayal was unique and singularly of his own making. The kill scenes were fantastically decrepit, though not the best in the series, which brings me to the second half of this review.
Part VII has fallen in rank among my favorite Friday the 13th’s. It was a sad passing of the torch, but it had to happen. As most things, we get older and our tastes for movies change. It is a necessary fact of life. Though Part VII will always be an enjoyable watch, Part VI and then quickly followed by the original Part I are my two favorites now. Part I for obvious reasons. For its originality compared to the other films where mommy dearest does all the killing and the more serious tone of the movie. Now, Part VI has moved up in the ranks as #1 because of its artistic value and amazing satire. Not only is it one of the Tommy Jarvis sequels, but is also directed by Tom McLoughlin (One Dark Night). With equal parts comedy and scares, part 6 is a true unsung hero among the others. And is one of the only films in the series to actually have real campers and not just camp counselors in the movie. Part 6 was made with a level of thought and intention seldom found in a Friday the 13th film. In fact, the atmospherics are gothic enough where the film is actually more enjoyable in black & white. Trust me. Pure magic.
But we’re not here to talk about Part 6. I think a lot of why Part 7 fell in rank is because it was in all intents and purposes a kids movie. The characters were weak at best. The nudity was at an all time low. Even the pot smoking and beer drinking was only marginal. It seemed the main focus was on the high school vibe and bullying. And I call this a kids movie because as a kid you enjoy the surface qualities of movies, the kills and the gore and the cool telekinesis abilities. As an adult, one looks for meaning in movies, purpose, intention, the things below the surface. Depth. Part 7 was sourly lacking such things. The character relationships were not believable, hell, most of the character tropes were not believable. I still have no idea what Dr. Crews’ game was in the movie. Okay, he wanted to study Tina’s power…and then what? The only believable part with Dr. Crews was his demise. And it seemed like the same could be said of all the characters. Part 7 was to put it bluntly, a teen drama. Which may have been entertaining when I was a teen, but not now. In fact, now its just down right obnoxious.
My 1990’s Rating: 5/5
My 2015 Rating: 3/5