Studio: Gravitas Ventures
Director: Brian Cavallaro
Writer: Brian Cavallaro
Producer: Arielle Brachfeld, Brian Cavallaro
Stars: Frank Whaley, Hannah Kleeman, Tim Torre, Luke Persiani, Josh Cahn, Nicole Souza, Amy Zenone, Leah Holleran, Erik Kochenberger, Yesenia Linares
Nine friends filming a ghost hunting video inside an abandoned prison end up stalked by an unseen killer.
These are the thoughts and questions that should have been running through my mind while watching “Against the Night:”
“I’m absolutely invested in the interpersonal complexities of everyone’s relationships. I feel as though I relate to these richly detailed protagonists and don’t want to see anyone die horribly. The way this multifaceted mystery is cleverly layered really has my imagination racing regarding what is going on. Is there a creature loose in this building? A madman? Did one of these friends organize an elaborate trap, and if so, who?”
These are the thoughts and questions that actually went through my head while watching “Against the Night:”
“Is this really only 85 minutes? It feels like four hours and I’m not even a third of the way in. Have any of these cast members acted before? Jeez, I don’t think there is one single unique beat anywhere in this movie. Should I fix a turkey club for lunch? Oh man, what am I going to say to the PR person who sent me this screener and asked what I thought about it? They’ve got to be kidding, that’s really the ending?”
Fearful of “Against the Night” being such a thinly unoriginal effort that I wouldn’t have enough comments for a 700-word review, I’ve sat here for some time staring at a blank Word document, wondering how I was going to beat around the bush. Time’s up. I’ll cut straight to the chase by curbing instincts to cut loose with sarcasm and simply say, as politely as possible, “Against the Night” is not an entertaining thriller.
Stop me if you’ve heard this setup before. Better yet, stop yourself.
Following surreptitiously recorded casual sex and a riveting game of “Flip Cup,” because beer pong presumably would have been beneath them, aspiring filmmaker Hank presents a solution to livening up a humdrum house party. For $200 apiece, Hank convinces eight guy and gal pals to come with him to a reportedly haunted prison to record a ghost-hunting video. The only thing more unbelievable than Hank’s claim that paranormal reality shows are second to porn in popularity is the idea that this slouch somehow has a spare $1600 to throw around.
Law of averages suggests at least one out of these nine twentysomething friends, or maybe they’re meant to be teens, wouldn’t be annoying. Here’s one instance where “Against the Night” defies expectations. No one has enough dimension to be truly obnoxious, though all nine are drably developed to the point of being entirely nonmagnetic.
Boneheaded ideas keep coming when everyone enters the eerie old building and splits into pairs so each cellblock can be explored separately. First rule of slasher survival broken, it isn’t much longer before bodies start dropping and others start running from something in the shadows they can’t quite see.
The audience can’t see much of anything either. “Against the Night” is part “found footage” and part traditionally filmed, yet erratically chaotic no matter the format. Despite having a suitable set for a cinematic spookshow, the filmmakers are stubbornly determined to show nearly none of it. When the screen isn’t completely dark or blurred in a flurry of whip pans and quick cuts, the camera is focused on bare concrete floors or green-tinted night vision nothingness.
More could be mentioned about what happens next as well as how else the film fails, but who couldn’t see the writing on the wall from what has already been said? “Against the Night” is clichéd in both conception and delivery. The recycled story starts with everyone already dead and the lone survivor being questioned, cellphones lose service at the worst possible moment, a name actor appears in a cameo role clearly shot in half a day tops. I’ll ask again, is there anything here that hasn’t been seen/done before?
No matter how much I stare at the screen, I’m at a loss to concoct a compliment that might say something positive about “Against the Night.” I’m having a harder time envisioning a conversation where producers convinced themselves that a formulaic fright film about friends exploring a haunted building would excite audiences two decades after that premise peaked. Now in all seriousness, what am I going to tell that PR person?
Review Score: 25