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Dead Night (2017)

Dark Sky Films
DVD Released: 9/11/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/7/2018

If you've ever seen a David Lynch movie, then you've probably said, "Well, I didn't understand all of that." And, that's OK, as that's Lynch's M.O. And, there are other directors who similarly make arty movies which can be intentionally evasive. But, have you ever watched an ostensibly straight-forward narrative film and not know what the heck was going on? This can create a disconcerting feeling in the viewer, as they can think to themselves, "I'm a smart person. Why don't I know what is going on here?" Don't worry, you're not alone. And that's certainly the feeling that you'll have while watching Dead Night.

As Dead Night opens, the Pollack family -- mother Casey (Brea Grant), father James (AJ Bowen), daughter Jessica (Sophie Dalah), and son Jason (Joshua Hoffman) -- is taking a journey up a snow-covered mountain, with Jessica's friend, Becky (Elise Luthman), in tow. The plan is to venture to a remote cabin which has some sort of healing factor, in order to address James' cancer. They arrive at the cabin and begin to settle in, while Casey starts dinner. While looking for firewood, James finds Leslie Bison (Barbara Crampton) in the snow. Leslie's arrival triggers a series of bizarre events and suddenly James' illness is the least of their worries.

I can only assume that the makers of Dead Night wanted the film to be a roller coaster ride of thrills and chills. Instead, what we get is a roller coaster ride of inconsistent tone and tangential storytelling. The film opens with a brief scene set in 1961 in which a young couple (who we don't know) are attacked by a monster, and suddenly the woman is pregnant and gives birth. There is a line much later on in the film which may refer to this scene, but it's real vague. In fact, "real vague" should have been the name of this movie. The first act, in which the family arrives at the cabin, is pretty straight-forward and easy to follow. The issue with this part of the film is that we've seen this before...a lot. When a group of people travel to the wilderness for a getaway, even for a somber one like this one, we know that something bad is going to happen.

The problem with Dead Night is that when the bad starts happening, logic and a firm narrative leave the room. The second half of the film becomes a series of horror movie scenes which have little-to-no causal link, as one-thing-after-another happens, but none of it gels. I don't want to give too much away, but the woods surrounding the house are filled with strange beings and monsters, but we never learn why. It's obvious that a plot is in place which was meant to place the family in jeopardy, however the hows and whys get left behind.

While all of this is going on, the movie does offer a glimmer of hope. About halfway through Dead Night, the movie suddenly becomes a true crime television show in which the host is reporting on the events of the film from the future. This delivers some spoilers of who survives the night, but it's an interesting twist, as the piece explores the events that we witnessed earlier. But, it still doesn't tell us what's happening.

So, let's review -- Dead Night presents us with at least three different storylines, all of which are interrupted by a TV show from the future. One could watch several different moments from the movie and not know that they were from the same film. (And the deleted scenes included here look as if they were taken from yet another movie.) This is yet another frustrating movie which has some interesting moments, but the film has no idea what to do with them. The deaths should be shocking, but they are so non-sensical that there's no room for emotion in the equation. The best thing about Dead Night is that the casting director did a great job finding a daughter who resembles the mother. Other than that, we get an inscrutable film which acts as if it doesn't want us to understand it.

Dead Night also includes a political ad on DVD courtesy of Dark Sky Films. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly bright or dark, despite the fact that there are some dark scenes. The level of detail and the depth are OK, but we've become spoiled with the crisp images found on Blu-ray Disc or 4K UHD. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The moments in the woods produce notable surround sound and stereo effects, as we are made aware of audio coming from off-screen. The subwoofer effects are impressive as well, delivering deep bass during the "shock" scenes.

The Dead Night DVD contains only a small amount of extras. We begin with four DELETED SCENES which run about four minutes. One of these offers more footage from the true crime show, but the other three have no context and thus we can't tell where they would have gone in the film. The only other extra is a TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long