Studio: Image Entertainment
Director: Richard Schenkman
Writer: Jesse Baget, Richard Schenkman
Producer: Richard Schenkman, Eric D. Wilkinson, Jesse Baget
Stars: Noell Coet, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Charlie O’Connell, Erica Leerhsen, Stephanie Erb, Richard Riehle, Ian Bamberg, Adam C. Edwards, Ally Walker
A blind girl is forced to defend herself when a mysterious intruder invades her home on Mischief Night.
Emily has it rough. After a tragic car accident took her mother’s life, Emily blamed herself, and inflicted her own brand of punishment by going blind. Doctors have told her that there is no physical cause for her sight loss, and nine years of therapy have not unlocked that piece of her mind keeping her vision behind a wall. We know this because despite having been Emily’s psychiatrist for years, Dr. Pomock feels the need to mention, “you were eight years old. They found you in the snow nearly frozen to death. You were going for help…” Surely that kind of expository dialogue is meant for the audience, as it makes no sense to recount those details after years of therapy sessions.
That is the kind of hand holding that makes “Mischief Night” a formulaic home invasion slasher. With this revelation about psychosomatic blindness in the film’s opening minutes, it is not a spoiler to say that it is only a matter of time before Emily’s sight picks a serendipitously climactic moment to make its sudden return.
“Mischief Night” begins round one with strong fighters in its corner. Noell Coet has a great blend of cute, plucky, and vulnerable as Emily. The film makes it as far as it does based on her ability to carry the role. There are times when she gives the scene too much, but given how finely tuned she is in other moments, her misfires appear due to the direction giving her too much rope. She also has a nice relationship with her father, played by Daniel Hugh Kelly. Their characters are believable and likeable right up until the script starts having them do increasingly ridiculous things.
Emily is incredibly resourceful for a blind girl, although she is not terribly bright. For one thing, she must run up a frightfully large electric bill considering all of the lights that she leaves on throughout the entire house. And when she shatters a fruit bowl into a pile of glass shards on the kitchen floor, she not only ditches her cleanup effort, but she continues to walk around barefoot. Now Chekhov has another gun primed to fire, with this one pointed squarely at Emily’s foot. It also seems like the smart thing for a blind person home alone would be to keep her cell phone on her person, instead of on a countertop where it can be easily forgotten or, hard to find when an intruder breaks into the home (hint hint). The plot of “Mischief Night” may as well be communicated in Morse code for all of the telegraphing it does.
Left home alone while her single father goes out on a first date, Emily assumes that an occasional egg on the window will be the most trouble she will see on October 30th, a night when kids to play relatively harmless pranks. Yet outside her home lurks a masked stalker in a yellow raincoat ready to create a more terrifying manner of mischief.
For a little while, “Mischief Night” exhibits the capacity to put that uncomfortable mood onscreen of feeling like there is someone in the house that you do not know about or cannot find. Juxtaposing the sinister looking intruder as standing directly behind or right near the innocent blind girl without her realizing is a chilling image the first time. But the fourth time the movie does it, the gimmick has already lost its punch.
“Mischief Night” has trouble retaining tension because its story beats are clichéd and its plot turns are predictable. Nothing comes as a surprise. There comes a point where all of the characters abandon sensible behavior entirely and with it goes the hope that “Mischief Night” might turn a corner into genuine suspense.
After the intruder breaches the house, Emily’s objective is to escape. Several characters enter one at a time to give her a helping hand, yet each time, everyone comes up with an errand that has to be done before getting out and going for help. Emily’s first knight in shining armor brings her all the way to within mere feet of the front door. But when he sees the cut on her foot from the broken fruit bowl, he decides to make a pit stop in the medicine cabinet for Neosporin. Emily has the better sense to plead no, but her would be hero responds with, “wait here a second … I’ll be right back.” Sure you will.
Rescuer #2 makes it all the way to the front door’s knob, then decides to check on a car in the driveway before making a break for it with Emily. Again, Emily protests that it is a bad idea. Again, she is met with the response, “I’ll be right back.” Is the script just joking with the audience now? At least the dialogue changes when the interruption to the fourth rescue attempt is delivered with the line, “I’ll only be a minute.” Uh huh. Because if there’s one thing that has been proven after all these failed rescues, it is how easy it is to stay a step ahead of the attacker.
Once the wheels fall completely off the wagon, it becomes a nitpick session looking at all of the things going wrong simply to keep the brain active. Emily’s behavior continues to be inconsistent. She can smell her boyfriend Jimmy from the other side of the room when he enters her bedroom window, but she cannot smell the intruder standing six inches away while he touches her face. The killer’s exaggerated motions shift into comical territory when he starts moving like a meth addict mime. And what exactly does the intruder want anyway? Is he there to scare people or is he there to slash throats? If it is the latter, he sure blows a number of golden opportunities to make his task easier.
“Mischief Night” is like a scaled down version of “The Strangers.” Although other people cycle in and out, it is basically one stalker and one victim in one house lit by venetian blinds in every single room. Decent performances fight off narcolepsy in places, but “Mischief Night” has nothing original to say, and no new ways to say it.
Review Score: 50