It has been a great year for movies y'all, more specifically, it's been a great year for horror. With groundbreaking and box office smashing films like Get Out, Annabelle: Creation, and most recently IT, the bar has officially been raised for horror to come. That being said, my tolerance for films that just don't pack a punch has gone way down, so I was a little disappointed while watching Brian Cavallaro's new film, AGAINST THE NIGHT.
The film features a group of nine just-out-of-college friends who have gathered for a house party to celebrate Rachel (Hannah Kleeman) buying her first home. The group proceeds to play drinking games and fool around until Hank (Luke Persiani), who is pursuing a career in film, whips out his camera hoping he can convince the group to help him shoot a project. Hank tells them of an abandoned prison, the perfect setting to shoot a ghost-hunting video. Reluctantly, the group finally agrees to help, only after Hank offers them $200 each. When they arrive at the aforementioned Holmesburg Prison, Hank has everyone pair up and grab some gear and then instructs them to set up cameras throughout the prison halls. Shortly after they split up, group members begin disappearing one by one and the question is raised whether some mysterious force is picking them off or if one of their own can’t be trusted.
Once things started going awry, there was a lot of confusion from the group. I think the question, “What’s going on?!” was asked about 37 times. Okay, maybe that was a slight exaggeration, but it was definitely enough that it made me say, “OKAY! We get it! No one knows what’s going on!”. There were a couple of fun and surprising moments, including one where Hank, who we quickly find out is quite the prankster, plays a pretty intense trick on the group that even surprised me. However, the tension the film was attempting to build was hard to take seriously with so many goofy moments and otherwise mediocre performances. In fact, the final beat of the film literally made me laugh out loud, and I’m really not sure that was the intended response. Although the film didn’t impress me much, I did discover that Holmesburg Prison is a real, (mostly) abandoned facility in Philadelphia, built in 1896 and used up until 1995. The prison is most notably recognized for its controversial history of dermatological, pharmaceutical, and biochemical weapons research projects, including testing on inmates, all of which is referenced in the film. The property is now utilized for filming purposes, allowing AGAINST THE NIGHT to be shot on location at Holmesburg, which made for some pretty spooky atmosphere. I have always been fascinated with abandoned (and probably haunted) locations, so whether I enjoyed the story or not, the film won some serious points by using such an interesting locale.
Overall, the film was goofy and fun with the occasional spooky moment, but it was never truly scary. I doubt I will ever revisit it, but it’s worth a watch just to be immersed in the ominous atmosphere the setting provides. Now, I’m off to do some more research on Holmesburg… road trip, anyone?
AGAINST THE NIGHT is set for release on September 15th