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AGAINST THE NIGHT review



2017
Directed by: Brian Cavallaro
Starring: Hannah Kleeman, Tim Tore, Luke Persiani and Frank Whaley

Hank is an ambitious young filmmaker who convinces a group of his friends to set out "ghost hunting" in an abandoned prison. He pays them each $200 so can film them and use the project as a calling card to move on to bigger things. Or what he sees as undertakings more worthy of his perceived talent. He wants to make it as a legitimate director but in his estimation, the only way to make money in indie film is in ghost hunting and porn.

I'm not sure if the location was found or built but it goes a long way in separating AGAINST THE NIGHT from other genre films. The prison is dripping with a rich history that feels somehow lived in and forgotten. The characters even mention how filming in this location will add "production value" to their project, and it does. The prison is setup like a wheel with the guard's station being the circular center and the inmate's cells lined out in corridors, or the spokes. It's an impressive building that is just flat out creepy. Our cast of characters quickly pair up and separate so they can place cameras throughout the prison, but soon after, they start disappearing one by one. Eventually, the film moves around and points blame at different individuals who could be behind the disappearances.

Storywise, AGAINST THE NIGHT, is something we've seen a thousand times before in genre films and that's the point. Cavallaro is aware of the film he is making and his characters are aware of the cynical nature of what they are doing. This isn't a satirical analysis on the film industry or reality television but something slightly more detached and pointed. It feels at times like a gifted filmmaker throwing his hands in the air and saying "well if this is what I have to do..."

Cavallaro has moments of brilliance in the film that are undercut by strange choices. I'm not sure if these choices were made as critical notes or what was seen as a necessity. Either way, there are a few jarring moments that viewers should stick out because the overall experience of watching the film is a positive one. To be clear on this, I can be kind of a prude when it comes to nudity in films. If it serves the story or somehow enriches the overall experience, great. But unfortunately, most nudity is there simply to titillate 13-year-old boys.

AGAINST THE NIGHT is being described as a psychological thriller but in its heart, the film is pure horror. It's designed to make the audience uncomfortable and get as many scares as it can in 90 minutes. The label of a thriller is often a tag a critic will bestow on a horror film they want to give a positive review. Home Invasion, a sub-genre of horror films, rarely have any supernatural elements and are often fairly grounded in reality. So, why do we call films like FUNNY GAMES, INSIDE and THE STRANGERS horror films when we call STRAW DOGS and WAIT UNTIL DARK thrillers? Quality. Quality and distancing. Critics don't feel comfortable saying they enjoy horror films because they see them as bourgeoisie and lacking any real artistic merit. They can write a 2,000-word think piece on the merits of ROSEMARY'S BABY but will be quick to point out how it's an exception in the genre. PSYCHO is not a f&^%ing thriller.

AGAINST THE NIGHT will ask if Cavallaro wanted to make a film, any film, and is gifted enough to get by slumming it in genre work, or if he has a deep affection for horror films and was doing his best to make something special. I tend to think the latter, but I would like to hear what others think when they have a chance to watch the film.



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