Courtesy Dark Sky Films

TAKE BACK THE NIGHT starts when Jane (Emma Fitzpatrick), a semi-famous visual artist, holds a gallery opening for her friends. She live-streams herself as she gets wasted at the party, and helps a fan (Jess Varley) catch a ride home. But when she can’t get back into the party, it starts a chain of events that change Jane’s life forever. The movie tackles very serious subjects, like sexual assault, in a hypermodern era, bringing up new questions and critiques on how an assault is handled.

TAKE BACK THE NIGHT, the 2021 movie from director Gia Elliot, follows Jane, no last name, who runs a popular Instagram account called @janedoedoes. Jane gets attacked on her way home from the party by a monster, which pins her down, slices her stomach and leaves her covered in cuts and bruises. There’s a long, quiet, serious scene of Jane at the hospital getting a rape kit done, and getting doctors collecting evidence, that makes clear just how harrowing the event is.

But even with the physical evidence, Jane is frustrated at every turn when the people around her refuse to take her experience seriously. It’s mostly women who doubt her, too – they bring up her background of substance abuse, mental health issues, and troubled childhood. No one believes that a real, fly-covered monster hurt her, so Jane takes matters into her own hands.

The phrase “take back the night” hearkens back to the 1960s, coined by women who felt unsafe walking home after dark. The TAKE BACK THE NIGHT movie reminds us that, even 80 years later, it’s still not safe to be alone in the dark. If you’re a woman or a non-binary person, you may already know the fear of losing agency over your own body from firsthand knowledge. TAKE BACK THE NIGHT explores the frustration and heartbreak of not being believed.

Courtesy Dark Sky Films

TAKE BACK THE NIGHT also asks the question: who owns the rights to one’s life story after an assault? What are the repercussions if someone makes a YouTube video detailing their experience to share with thousands of followers? Is it okay to profit off of one’s own trauma and pain, and if so, how soon is too soon? Jane’s nonchalance in making an immediate tell-all video about the attack shows that nothing is too taboo to share with followers.

The interactions between Jane and her sister (Angela Gulner) are the heart of the film. Jane’s sister, unnamed in the movie, tries to have her back – but constantly fails at believing her. She says, “I would go to the f***ing ends of the Earth for you Jane, even if you lied about the whole thing, I will lie with you. I just need to know.”

One of the movie’s most intense scenes is when Jane live streams an entire car ride, even when she needs to stop and change a tire. There are apparently thousands of viewers watching the stream, leaving comments that Jane verbally replies to in real-time. At one point, Jane won’t even end her live stream to call 9-1-1. Instead, a random follower does that for her, which gives the scene a way less scary and serious tone, turning it almost comedic.

Director Gia Elliot has previously made the TV series “How to Not”, and produced Poor Little Rich Girl, Hood Adjacent with James Davis, and Pod Save America: Four State Tour. She and the lead actress playing Jane, Emma Fitzpatrick (9-1-1, Confused, Sleepwalker), wrote the movie together. Fitzpatrick discussed in an interview with Ghouls Next Door that she felt pulled to write this film after working in the justice system and seeing how the victims of assaults were treated.

Courtesy Dark Sky Films

TAKE BACK THE NIGHT has interesting ideas, but it just isn’t very good on a technical level. The acting gives the feeling of a made-for-TV movie, or a Law and Order episode. The sets, especially the interrogation room, look cheap, and the mics rustle against fabric constantly, preventing you from being fully absorbed into the drama. Confusing continuity errors made me question if Jane was supposed to be losing her mind, or if the movie was just filmed and edited hastily.

I give TAKE BACK THE NIGHT credit for continuing the conversations around sexual assault, trauma, victim-blaming, and social media usage, and creating new definitions of what it means to believe women. It refuses to give easy or clear answers. And although TAKE BACK THE NIGHT isn’t the most well-crafted movie, its weirdness, inconsistencies, and elements of horror have left me thinking about it long after it ended.

TAKE BACK THE NIGHT is now available in select theaters and Digital Platforms.

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