Studio: After Dark Films
Director: Travis Baker
Writer: Travis Baker
Producer: Richard Tanne
Stars: Brooke Anne Smith, Marc Valera, Nikki Limo, Matt Angel, Erik Palladino, Lily McDowell, Malcolm McDowell
A lonely babysitter strikes up an unlikely relationship with a masked killer terrorizing her on Mischief Night.
Late October setting. Babysitter home alone. Classic horror film on TV and a shape with a butcher’s blade stalking the shadows outside. Call it a knockoff if you want, or an homage if you must, but given initial appearances, you would be forgiven for pegging “Mischief Night” as a “Halloween” clone. Or at least a copy of the 2013 “Mischief Night” (review here), which also features a girl home alone terrorized by a masked maniac. Although much like Greedo and Han Solo, there is some confusion over which one of the two shot first.
But Kaylie is not at all like Laurie Strode, or even the blind girl in the other “Mischief Night” for that matter. Kaylie is far less likable. In addition to pilfering her mom’s pills and raiding her host family’s liquor cabinet, Kaylie mixes it up with the neighborhood brats pulling pranks and tells the fidgety baby in the crib upstairs to “shut the f*ck up.” As the story develops, these traits help rationalize her motivations somewhat. But for the time being, they just make Kaylie a punk.
She is a bit of a dim bulb, too. After spotting a masked man with a knife skulking about on the other side of the front room window, Kaylie calls her best friend Daphne to come over and help. What does Kaylie do next? Well, what any sensible person would do while suspecting a murderer is hiding outside. She takes off her clothes and goes for a dip in the pool… outside.
After the masked man breaks into the house and begins a cat and mouse game with Kaylie that doesn’t have a whole lot of viciousness involved, I’m willing to give “Mischief Night” the benefit of the doubt that it has another idea in mind. Kaylie cannot possibly be so stupid as to nearly skinny dip with a slasher on the loose and the lack of urgency in their subsequent confrontation hints at something else going on. Is she actually in on it with this presumed killer? Maybe he is really her boyfriend and this is part of some fantasy role-play scenario?
Not exactly. “Mischief Night” does have a twist and since the promotional blurbs already give it away, it apparently isn’t a spoiler to reveal that Kaylie and the masked man strike up an unusual relationship. “Mischief Night” is not about slasher stabs and body counts, but rather a fractured romance between two emotionally damaged individuals.
That would be a novel idea for a horror comedy, or a twisted Tarantino-esque vision of sociopathic behavior. Instead, “Mischief Night” plays the premise plainly, without much of a spin that makes sense as entertainment. The problem is that Kaylie and her stalker are whiney dullards. Kaylie is an affluent teen girl whose biggest worry is that her best friend likes the same boy she does. The stalker is a married with children family man who laments that he has to pick up paper towels and lowfat milk before returning home later that evening.
“Mischief Night” does not have a dementedly playful “Natural Born Killers” vibe. Nor does it have a dark Richard Ramirez Night Stalker and serial killer groupie feel. Its main players are just “woe is me” yuppies with First World problems of the eye-rolling variety, which makes them as unsympathetic, and as boring, as is realistically possible.
The movie has one more twist in store during the last act that rescues yawning audiences from some of the doldrums, though by then it is too late. The rest of the movie merely goes through the motions.
One kill scene consists of a kid carrying a pile of guts that he simply drops in a pained attempt to make it look like they are falling from his stomach. The camera then randomly cuts away to shots of Halloween props bearing comically sinister expressions apparently meant to be eerie or funny or both.
Malcolm McDowell not only appears in just two brief scenes, but they are each shot with only one single camera setup, ensuring that he was probably on set for about an hour, maybe two. “Mischief Night” tries getting its money’s worth by cramming all of McDowell’s outtakes into the credits as a blooper reel. They paid for it, might as well use it, right? All it does is prove that his dialogue was largely improvised, further highlighting how pointlessly irrelevant his character even is to the script.
Its premise alone might be distinctive enough to pique the curiosity of viewers in desperate need of a different take on the slasher subgenre. But the characters in “Mischief Night” are not compelling enough to make their lengthy dialogue interactions interesting. Explored stylishly, the idea at the story’s core can potentially power an intriguing movie. “Mischief Night” is not that movie.
Review Score: 40