There’s Not Much Lurking in the Darkness in ‘Against the Night’

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Against the Night

Young filmmakers are always drawn to the horror genre because it’s a playground that doesn’t require big budgets to be effect, just storytelling and filmmaking skills that can create a sense of dread and terror. It doesn’t always work out, though. The new horror film from writer-director Brian Cavallaro, Against the Night, aims to craft a house of horrors for his characters and the audience, but the film is padded with lots of talking and not enough terror.

Against the Night opens with a police detective (Frank Whaley) asking questions of Rachel (Hannah Kleeman), a young woman visibly shaken after some kind of unknown trauma. Then the film takes us back to before the opening scene to a party in a Philadelphia apartment. Hank (Luke Persiani) has found a bit of success as a young filmmaker making low budget shows about ghosts and haunted houses and entices the entire party of rowdy youths to accompany to him an abandoned prison in the heart of the city. The group of young people wander the decaying hallways of the old prison, sometimes stopping by a camera to shed some clothing and make out a bit. Then they walk around some more. Then they walk around some more. Maybe they’ll bicker a little bit and then they walk around some more. Eventually, they’re cornered in some of the cells, and there’s something lurking in the dark but they’re not sure what. Whatever it is in the dark corners of this desolate prison will tear this group apart if fear doesn’t cause them to do it first.

There’s a real “When are they gonna get to the fireworks factory?” feel to Against the Night, with Cavallaro really taking his sweet time before escalating the events of the film. Cavallaro goes fluctuates between traditional cinematic technique and found footage that the characters are capturing. It’d be a find technique if anything actually happened. Instead you’re witness to a number of interchangeable characters wandering around a dark location and repeatedly asking aloud “What’s that?” That’s a valid question but the film is no hurry to answer it. So much of the film is just dark locations that are barely visible to the viewer.

A lengthy setup can easily be forgiven in a horror film if the payoff is there. It’s just not there in Against the Night. When the mysterious entity starts knocking off characters, the camera flails and the sparse lighting creates a sense of total bewilderment for the viewer. There’s not a form of ambiguity that creates a sense of dread, just visually incoherent confusion. Towards the end, the film begins piling reveal upon reveal of escalating absurdity before wrapping things up with a final wildly absurd reveal.

Against the Night doesn’t pack enough of a punch in its 80-minute running time. The scares aren’t there. The gore isn’t there. Too much of its time is spent waiting for things to happen and never giving us a reason to care whether any of these characters live or die. Against the Night isn’t a detestable film, just one that never lives up to its premise or promise.

Against the Night
  • Overall Score
1.5

Summary

A low budget horror film that really takes its time before escalating, Against the Night doesn’t deliver scares or gory thrills as it meanders about an abandoned prison before slaying its practically anonymous characters.

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