The Dead of Night

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The Dead of Night
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The Dead of Night
Horror
Rojak Films
2004
Release length: 1:24:00
Website
The Dead of Night is an independent film that saw plenty of distribution through some media rental locations such as Blockbuster. Over the years, it received a great deal of negative press with scores ranging to even a simple one out of ten, if not less. For a while, this has slipped off the radar, as well as out of the minds and memories of those who saw, or even heard about it. But, was this high school rendition of the concepts behind Invasion of the Body Snatchers really that bad a production, or is this simply a misunderstood indie project that the masses expected way too much from?

Right from the start it is obvious that The Dead of Night has a decent fund behind it, but isn’t really that major a production. The film starts out in a mental ward, which is actually the later high school. Mumblings of things in the night can be heard prior to a break out of the patients, and the murder of the staff, hanging from the rafters with home made nooses of bed sheets. Of course, once we’re at the school, especially inside it, it’s obvious that this was just one of the janitorial closets upstairs with a bed thrown in.

At the school, we are introduced to the popular click of students that make up our main cast. Discussions of getting drunk in the local graveyard, among other school-related topics, are met with a meathead machismo. After a fight between one of the nerds and another male of the group, the quarrel is broken up by Mel (Cameron Zeidler), which wins the heart of Suzanne (Kerri MacLaine). Mel, the new kid, is invited to the group’s next get-together in the graveyard, as are the two nerds that were being picked on. Of course, there’s an alternate reason for this other than general hospitality despite how many times apologies are thrown about.

It doesn’t take long before the party is under way, as the group of kids await Mel and the other two. There’s a brief sex scene involving Nancy (Tara Taylor) that is a bit uncomfortable to watch since all the actors and actresses really do look as though they attend the high school featured in this film in real life, Of course, she has to be at lest eighteen, and the worst is a quick nipple shot as she’s groped. But, soon after, everyone but Mel arrives, and the two nerds from before are to be initiated into the group. They are tied up and thrown into a shallow grave, left to get out themselves. While the others wait for them to escape, the two are attacked by something in the woods, as well as Bev (Katie Swain) who left her purse at the scene.

What follows isn’t really anything too impressive. An insight into the inner workings of the popular click verses the nerdy and outcasts in the school continues, including Bev hanging out more with the nerds than her current friends, a big problem that Nancy has illustrated earlier to Suzanne when she talks about liking Mel. There’s a little work being done by Mel to discover what’s going on since the graveyard, but for the most part it ends up filler that doesn’t do much to progress the story. Eventually, this group is stuck trying to survive, and even put a stop to the creatures that are killing students and using them as hosts, claiming they have been reborn. One by one, others are picked off, and a few who are attending the local football game, using the restroom, are turned as well.

The production on this film is surprisingly good, even though it really does just look like a high school project given the cast. The film looks fantastic and clearly shot with professional standard cameras given it’s release date and production window. The audio never really ends up too low, but some of the effects used on the creatures when they talk in their normal form are definitely hard to understand, usually coming off like the sentence said twice with a slight delay between the two tracks. Sometimes you can tell what is being said, and other times you just can’t, though there is one instance where one of them, shortly after turning, is shouting in his normal voice.

Aside that, the visual effects really are not that impressive. For the most part, the costumes look ok, but clearly were just some kind of Mummy influenced outfit that probably was found on the racks of a Halloween store and bought in bulk. On top of that, rubber masks were used that did look alright, but obviously still appeared fake. When the creatures would talk, the mouth wouldn’t move, but instead the whole face would stretch, or it would just be still as it spit a substance into the mouth of the victim. Thankfully, for the most part, they were in the darkness, or a POV shot was utilized, so the cast and crew were able to get away with it most of the time. But, during some of the murder scenes involving these things involved layered camera work that doesn’t help any with the stillness of the mask. This usually leads into a cheesy effect of the victim’s eye popping out a little bit, and then a cut away shot. Towards the end, a scene involving Nancy is played a little less serious, having her shout random things including how gross it tastes while the creature is spitting the substance in her mouth. This is followed by a cha-ching sound effect. It took a moment to register that it’s a reference to her character being a slut, casting the substance more as semen going into her mouth in a manner similar to the money shot in a porno. Of course, it’s rather pointless and unnecessary.

As far as the acting went, it honestly wasn’t that bad. None of the characters were really that believable, nor were they unbelievable. The whole film fell into that grey area that leaves no lasting mark whether good or bad. But, some characters did walk away leaving a better or worse performance than others. Mel’s character wound up suffering the worst from the performance, though it seemed as if Cameron had gotten better towards the end, perhaps after some coaching as things went along, or just becoming more adjusted to his character. But, of all the performances, it was Rich Finley as Keith that really would catch your attention. The slight loud mouthed approach to the obvious leader of the pack worked in his favor, especially when pushing some of the others around such as the nerd characters.

The Dead of Night was built up by many to be a horrible film simply not worth your time. The acting and visuals definitely could have been better, and a different setting for the insane asylum would have been a nice addition instead of rehashing the same location. But, even with that said, there is far worse out there than this film, and in many ways it seems as if the negatives comments are based on this not being a big blockbuster major motion picture from Hollywood with millions of dollars attached to it. What is present isn’t really that insufferable to those going in knowing this is an independent film. The story is decent, the pacing is solid enough, and the camera work, as well as the audio, is still on a pretty professional level. While it isn’t worth the typical price for a bigger DVD release, if you can find this one cheap enough, such as on the aforementioned film set from Echo Bride Entertainment that you can find in bargain bins for five dollars (US currency), it’s still worth grabbing for that night you have nothing better to watch.

Overall Score: 5.5/10
Physical review copy of this release provided by personal funds.