Maybe it’s because I’ve spent my entire life living in cities and densely populated suburbs, but I can think of practically nothing more terrifying than the quiet stillness of spread out and isolated rural communities. Especially after dark. There’s just something about wide, open spaces after dark that makes me tense. There’s also the fact that in the event of an emergency, you’re miles away from any help. Robert Dean’s latest feature horror film, THE DEAD OF NIGHT, takes place in one of these towns, located somewhere in the American Southwest, and set in some past, pre-cellphone era.
The movie follows various locals over the course of two nights, centering brother and sister pair June and Tommy. It’s June’s last night in town; she’s preparing to fly off to Germany to be with her fiancée, who is stationed at one of the bases there. June’s plans to leave her hometown—and her family’s ranch—have been causing friction with Tommy, who seems to be settled on staying on their land.
During June’s last night, her and Tommy’s friends Amber and Ryan throw her a bon voyage party. But then the festivities are interrupted by a pack of vicious, animal skin-wearing murderers who have already killed two local kids…and seem to be hungry for more bloodshed.
The thing that makes THE DEAD OF NIGHT so interesting is not the kill scenes. It’s the fact that the kill scenes only make up a small percentage of the runtime. The rest of the film is devoted to characterization. Dean, through long shots of characters driving and talking to each other, allows us, the audience, to actually get to know the people we’re supposed to root for. Dean doesn’t rush through important dialogue and small actions to get to the thrills. When he does get there, though, he really delivers the carnage.
THE DEAD OF NIGHT is a fantastic film. The characters are fully drawn and played by an exceptionally talented cast. Colby Crain brings both fire and vulnerability to June; Jake Etheridge portrays Tommy with quiet determination, anger, and subdued resentment. They are supported by Leah Bezozo (Amber) and Kyle Overstreet (Ryan). And I can’t not mention the performances by Charlotte McKee and Darius Homayoun, who play the first pair of murder victims, as well as that by Matthew Lawrence, who plays a less-than-upstanding Sheriff’s deputy.
Also worth noting is the cinematography. Troy Scoughton Jr. uses the vast expanse of the quintessential cowboy country to the fullest, truly showing us how isolated and exposed to malicious players the characters are.
THE DEAD OF NIGHT premieres in Home Theaters on Digital and On Demand everywhere March 9, 2021, from Shout! Studios and VMI Worldwide. If you’re a fan of period films, Westerns, and thrillers, this is a must-see.