Is this what passes for entertainment amongst the youth of today? Blowing off a perfectly good house party, a gang of friends sneak into an abandoned old prison to film a spooky little something for their wannabe videographer pal. It’s a better way to spend one’s time than swallowing Tide Pods, at least. But only just: predictably, the rundown old dump is home to more than just the horrific histories of its one-time inmates, and our heroes are locked in while supernatural (?) forces tear them apart.
Brian Cavallaro’s creepy horrorshow is part found footage, part conventionally filmed horror film, all no good. The acting and dialogue feels semi-improvised in the worst way, and is even more inexcusable if it emerges that someone actually sat down and wrote it. The kids’ annoying patter is forced and unnatural, their terror at the supernatural attacks which beset them shrieky and irritating, like a YouTube reacts video with a semblance of plot. The prison itself is marginally more successful as a setting, its gothic corridors and peeling walls doing most of the heavy lifting. It has to work hard at it though, the flat camerawork and uninspiring night vision footage doing neither the prison nor the filmmakers or cast any favours. There’s a brief appearance from Luke Cage actor Frank Whaley (playing another cop) in an attempt to class the joint up, but that comes in a silly bookending sequence which feels tacked on from a completely different film.
As with so many films like it (and there are so many films like it – can we have a rest from found footage films set in old prisons and lunatic asylums now?) too many of the ‘scares’ rely on its actors screaming into the darkness at barely seen terrors, and being dragged off by invisible ghouls. There’s no atmosphere, no tension and no invention, and the characters are ceaselessly annoying, even in the throes of death. As Indie filmmaking goes, there’s far worse out there - and Cavallaro has sound intentions - but it’s as cliché as low-budget semi-found footage cinema comes, in spite of its fundamental coherence and naturally scary setting. Against the Night is better than swallowing Tide Pods, but only just.
AGAINST THE NIGHT / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: BRIAN CAVALLARO / STARRING: JOSH CAHN, LEAH HOLLERAN, HANNAH KLEEMAN, ERIK KOCHENBERGER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (US), TBC (UK)