Dead Night


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Dead Night
"Ellery Bute and Todd Jeffrey's art direction presents us with picture postcard settings which conceal much darker things."

It's a dark and snowy night when James (AJ Bowen), Casey (Brea Grant) and the kids head out to the cabin in the woods for a quiet getaway. This trip isn't just about having fun, it's about a desperate attempt at healing; James is ill and Casey has been told that because the cabin is located atop a substantial iron ore deposit, it might help him. Neither of them normally believes that sort of thing but in the circumstances they're willing to give it a try. In the meantime, they can have fun together, and James can enjoy feeling like a man in control, striding out fearlessly among the trees ("Wolves like me") to find firewood.

Instead of firewood, he finds an unconscious women (Barbara Crampton) lying there in the snow. Naturally he calls to his family for help and they get her indoors. But her behaviour afterwards quickly begins to ring alarm bells. Something here is very wrong.

Copy picture

We know something is wrong not just because we're watching these strange events unfold but also because we're privy to what seems to be a television programme made in the future - one of those cheesy crime programmes that pores over the salacious details of real life killings and bring up pop psychologists to debate the nature of evil. According to the programme, Casey was the apparently loving wife and mother who had planned ahead to lure her family out to a remote location and murder them all, subsequently confessing to the police. What's going on? This really doesn't seem like the Casey we're watching.

Could the disconnect have something to do with the strange object we've seen in the woods, just out of sight of the cabin, and the ritual behaviours that seem to take place around it?

Dead Night borrows the tropes of ancient folklore and mixes in a dose of something closer to science fiction. Good performances make us care about the central couple and, though them, for a group of teenagers who haven't the first clue how to look after themselves when things get nasty. Crampton is on fine form, sexy and dangerous and expert at delivering emotional non-sequiturs that throw everybody off balance. Ellery Bute and Todd Jeffrey's art direction presents us with picture postcard settings which conceal much darker things, and the present day happenings juxtapose nicely with the TV programme - which is intercut with adverts for an electoral candidate who might just be the same person as the stranger from the snow.

More than just the slasher horror you might expect from its setting, Dead Night is an ambitious film whose strength is in its strangeness. Foregrounding the talents of some capable women, it builds on its central puzzle and has just enough twists to keep things interesting all the way through, as Casey tries to take her destiny into her own hands.

Reviewed on: 25 Jul 2018
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Dead Night packshot
A family planning a quiet weekend away at a cabin in the woods get more than they bargained for when they find a mysterious woman unconscious in the snow outside.

Director: Bradford Baruh

Writer: Irving Walker

Starring: Brea Grant, Barbara Crampton, AJ Bowen, Sophie Dalah, Elise Luthman, Joshua Hoffman, Daniel Roebuck

Year: 2017

Runtime: 86 minutes

Country: US


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