A group of high school students hi-jack a school bus during a high school dance, and head towards a friend’s cabin for a weekend of fun. Along the way, the bus breaks down, leaving the kids stranded in the middle of nowhere, with no way of getting either home or to the cabin, and with no one knowing where they are.
During a quick search of the surrounding area, they come across a seemingly deserted house, and they decide to check it out and spend the night. When one of the group is brutally murdered, it’s clear that someone doesn’t want them in the house, and the search for a place to spend the night quickly turns into a race for survival.
Anyone who is anyone who has ever watched a horror film knows all the classic rules of surviving when a slasher decides it’s time for teenagers to meet their makers. Don’t have sex. Don’t break from the group, and never ever ask “Who’s there?” when something goes bump in the night. If you have ever watched any of the classic horror films that went on to have cult followings (“A Nightmare on Elm Street”, “Halloween”, “Friday 13th”) you’ll know the main reason the teenagers were slaughtered mercilessly was down to the simple fact they didn’t adhere to any of the rules needed to be following to ensure survival. True, it could be argued that these rules weren’t brought to light until 1996’s “Scream” was released, but as the audience continued to buy into the massacres created in these horror gem’s, it became clear just who was going to die, and who would be around to stop the killer and live to tell the tale.
This might be why, in 2016, what makes a successful horror film is down to the unexpected (ghosts, demons, witches, a pissed off relative of a murder victim with nothing better to do), which unfortunately has become as clichéd as the “The Virgin Survivor”. Modern audiences have almost programmed themselves to expect the unexpected, or to predict the ending of a film only to be disappointed when the reality doesn’t meet their expectations. It’s getting harder and harder to make a horror film that meets all the criteria desperately wanted by film fanatics, which is why directors are becoming desperate to the point of ridiculousness with their ideas. In the age where no one is scared by anything, how do you terrify a new audience?
When I watched this movie, I went into it with ridiculously high hopes of what I was about to watch. From simply looking at the promotional image on the cover, it looked violent, bloody and above all, terrifying. When I put it on, however, I will admit I was somewhat in a state of disbelief as to what I was watching. The production value of this film looked catastrophically cheap, and the dialogue was clichéd and almost painful to listen to. And then I got to know the characters. A jock, an outcast, a slut, nerd and…a virgin? Sound familiar? I was completely ready to write this movie off as another ridiculous gimmick where I could predict the ending without needing to watch any of it.
The more I watched, the more I realised – this film is actually brilliant.
The film plays complete homage to the brilliance of the horror genre when it was at its best – the 80’s. While many may scoff if they were to watch any of the cult classics today for the first time, it needs to be said that those are the films that terrified almost an entire generation, and it didn’t have resolve to shock tactics or torture porn. (How many of you were really scared after watching “Saw” or “Paranormal Activity”? And I mean really scared?) Lost After Dark is almost like a nice little gesture to the era of true horror but with a modern twist – the deaths are bloodier, the jumps are scarier and for once – I bet you don’t know who’ll survive.
What I honestly enjoyed most about the villain in this film wasn’t the inventive way he tortured and killed his victims. It wasn’t the suspense he created when he was unseen (There is scene where two of the characters are hiding in a car under a sheet – my nerves never stood a chance!), nor was it the terror he inflicted by merely just existing. What I enjoyed most about him was there was no real reason for him doing what he was doing. Hear me out for a second – a lot of people claim that without a backstory or a messed-up life, it’s hard to understand why villains are the way they are. And to those I say – so what? Honestly, if you want a villain that will keep you up at night, don’t overcomplicate them with a story that doesn’t even make sense half the time. Keep it simple. Mindless evil is more terrifying than a damaged past. Who can honestly say that the thought of Michael Myers, one of the only characters to be born pure evil (we’ll ignore the abysmal 2007 reboot), doesn’t send a shiver down their spines? There’s no reasoning with pure evil. You can only fear it and hope against hope it doesn’t find you. Writer’s Kessner and Ransdell do give you a glimpse into the cannibal’s history, but it doesn’t explain why he’s evil. It doesn’t tell you why he feels the urge to kill and feed on teenagers, and that, quite frankly, is scarier than anything I’ve seen in the past ten years.
We are in 2016 and the horror genre seems to have forgotten its roots. Directors don’t seem to know what to do to scare it’s audience, and the modern audience itself doesn’t seem to realise just what it’s looking for. Kessner and Ransdell have done a superb job in reinventing the original horror we felt when we were younger. While it may not be the scariest film I’ve ever seen, it definitely meets most of the expectations I had from what I wanted from a horror film. They’ve demonstrated that, really, if you want true horror, you don’t need to create the next demon-possessed adolescent, you just need to realise what made The Exorcist scary in the first place. For fans of modern horror, I doubt you’ll appreciate it as much as I’m sure was intended, but I urge you to give it a chance. For fans of horror when it was at its best, this film will fill you with nostalgia, fright and a laugh or two.
Director: Ian Kessner
Starring: Sarah Fisher, Mark Wiebe, Jesse Camacho
Running Time: 85 minutes.
Release Date: Feb 29, 2016