I don’t want to be eaten by a cannonball! (character mistakenly says cannonball instead of cannibal)
Year Released : 2014
Director : Ian Kessner
Cast : Sarah Fisher, Jesse Camacho, Elise Gatien, Justin Kelly, Stephan (no, not Stephen) James, Eve Harlow, Lanie McAuley, Alexander Calvert, Kendra Timmins, Robert Patrick and Mark Wiebe
The 1980s was arguably the best decade for horror in the history of cinema. During that time period you had films such as The Fly, The Thing, the franchises of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween and Friday 13th, An American Werewolf in London, the Shining, Evil Dead, Gremlins, Aliens and many more. No decade has put out hits in the genre as consistently as the 1980s and there has been something lacking from horror films since then….but then I saw that there was modern day horror film that has been shot in the same style as an 80s horror film.
As I have mentioned in previous reviews of horror films, modern day films from the genre have become predictable and tired, so it’ll be interesting to see if a film that boasts to be a homage to films of arguably the best era of it’s existence. It won’t be the first time that a film has tried to resemble one from yesteryear, with arguably the only decent conversion in recent years being Planet Terror.
Whilst attending their school prom, a group of students steal one of the buses in order to go to the cabin of Adrienne (Timmins), a social outcast that is attracted to Sean (Kelly), the school’s football star. Their plan is discovered by the strict vice-principle (Patrick), but he is unable to stop them in time and they set off.
All appears to be fine as they approach Adrienne’s cabin before the engine spontaneously stops working. Whilst some of the group go off to find a telephone, the rest stay in the bus and the relationships between them develop, including Adrienne’s aforementioned attraction to Sean. The group is soon reunited and decide to take shelter in a nearby abandoned house. Whilst exploring they discover a wall made of human skin and bones, and it turns out that the house is that of the infamous Joad family. The Joads were a bunch of cannibals that were believed dead, but it turns out that the son survived a shoot out with the local sheriffs several years before.
Whilst trying to make it obvious to Marilyn (Harlow) that he is attracted to her, Tobe (Camacho) loses his glasses and he is soon captured and is used as bait by Junior Joad (Wiebe). Whilst running to save Tobe, Junior suddenly appears to the rest of the group and starts killing them off one by one, but could the vice principle prove to be the group’s saviour after he tracks them down?
So just a gimmick or a genuine attempt to pay homage?
In many ways it’s both, it is definitely a gimmick and not one that I can see taking off…..but I would like it to. I genuinely liked Lost After Dark and it was definitely a throw back to the better slasher flicks of the 1980s.
The film is nearly structurally identical to a lot of horror films from the 1980s in that it actually spends half of the film developing the character to the point where you care about them. Each of the characters are given a chance to breath and actually let you get to know them. It takes around 45 minutes for the antagonist to be introduced and that’s relatively late for a 85 minute film, but it actually works because of how the characters are introduced and progress.
In that sense I compare it to a film that I have previously reviewed, Andy Serkis’ The Cottage. In many ways Lost After Dark is very similar to The Cottage. Neither introduces the antagonist early but does hint at it very well. I’ve spoken about building your characters, and your antagonist, in numerous times and introducing them when the time is right and Lost After Dark got it pretty much exactly right. It was at the point of the film where introducing the antagonist felt natural and fluid, rather than forced, and that was so refreshing.
I love films that aren’t predictable and therefore keep you interested, and it again feels very representative of films from the arguable golden age of horror films.
What I love about films in the late 70s/80s early is that the characters that survive are never predictable. For example, if you watch the original Alien there is pretty much nothing to suggest that Ripley will the lone survivor until it’s actually the case, mainly because there isn’t really a main character in that film. Seriously, go back and watch it. There isn’t a main character in the film and although it seems strange saying that now after Ripley’s involvement in the three subsequent films, there is nothing to suggest she is the main character in the first. Because of this you care about the whole group instead of just one specific individual.
Whilst Lost After Dark will never be considered one of the greats (and I don’t mean that in an offensive way at all), it repeats that element of seemingly having no main character from Alien and whilst I’m not going to reveal which character or characters survive until the end, there is an aspect to the first death which took me completely by surprise. I won’t go into it because it will spoil it for anyone that wants to watch it, but believe me when I say that you will not see it coming…..and I love when that happens. There were several times in the film where I thought it was going one way and then it swung in a completely different direction.
I mentioned in a recent review for another film (I can’t recall which) that I went to see “The Gallows” recently and correctly predicted five things that would happen in the film, and I hate when films are predictable to that extent. Nothing about Lost After Dark is predictable, especially the deaths. All take you by surprise and I really wish that I could spoil it for you to go fully into it and even better, talking about how visceral and violent some of the deaths are, but I won’t spoil it for you because it would ruin the enjoyment of the film.
My one minor gripe against the film is that it’s so full of stereotypes and there isn’t a lot of originality included within. However, I can cut both a bit of slack when considering the film is inspired by a lot of movies from that 1980s, and it captures the essence of those. If you love slasher films from the 1980s then I think you’ll love this and even though it all feels very familiar due to the stereotypes and relative unoriginality, that familiarity brings a very welcome sense of nostalgia.
A great homage to films of the 1980s and I feel very disappointed that, at the time of writing, it only has a rating of 4.7/10 on IMDB, it’s better than that suggests and I really enjoyed it. I think a lot of people gave it a poor review because the style and structure of films from the 80s doesn’t necessarily work with people who were born after the 80s took place.
If you’re a fan of all of the films that I mentioned at the very beginning of the review then I think you will enjoy this because it is a tribute done with the right intentions and it’s executed quite well. It doesn’t feel like it’s mocking that era and that is so important when trying to produce a film in that style, and Kessner has achieved that.
When you get a spare 85 minutes, I would definitely recommend Lost After Dark.