Movie Review: Dead Night (2017)

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Original Title: Applecart

Opening with a scene of traditional horror movie date bait as a couple is attacked at a lover's lane in the 1960s before jumping ahead fifty years and settling into a haunted cabin in the woods storyline, the first act of Dead Night gives viewers the feeling that first time feature filmmaker Brad Baruh is aiming for a Genre's Greatest Hits mixtape vibe.

Built on a deposit of iron oxide said to have the ability to "realign everything that's wrong with you," even though she practices western medicine as a hospital nurse, Casey Pollack (Brea Grant) rents the desolate cabin as a last ditch effort to try and cure her dying husband, James (AJ Bowen).

Arriving with the couple's two teenage children (Sophie Dalah and Joshua Hoffman) and their daughter's friend, Becky (the most likable teen of the lot, played by Elise Luthman) also in tow, as the family settles into what we fear might be their final destination after the long drive, we realize that both inside the cabin and out in the woods, something is very, very wrong.

An old-fashioned yet compelling start, rather than let the story unfold naturally as a work of slow burn horror, Dead Night inexplicably cuts to an Unsolved Mysteries style true crime series airing simultaneously on a handful of TV screens in the middle of the woods that suggests that one or more of our characters might not be as innocent as they seem.

Revealing far too much too fast, including at least one (potentially) major plot twist, while the dueling narrative gimmick might've sounded good on paper, onscreen it just comes across as laughably, pointlessly cheesy given the sight of those old-fashioned TVs in the snow.

Losing us just as Night's suspense should've reached its peak after the family discovers local politician – and rudest houseguest ever – Leslie Bison (well played by Barbara Crampton) face down in the snow, although there’s some initial excitement when things turn violent and the remaining survivors try their best to fight, run, and hide to stay alive, sadly, it doesn't last long.

Given a major narrative overhaul after the film – then called Applecart – bombed at Fantastic Fest, I can only hope that this configuration makes more sense. Unfortunately because Irving Walker's script boasts nearly as many ideas as it has disparate threads, without some new reshoots to fill in for Dead Night's spoiler filled, tacky TVs (just to name one problem), all the editing in the world will be unable to bail this one out.

With a script you can't follow from Points A to B because it keeps looking for a shortcut in Y or Z, despite some strong (though admittedly gruesome) special effects and a talented cast of genre veterans, in the end, Dead Night feels like a five-part anthology horror movie chopped up and spliced back together as one.

In other words? If you have a deposit of iron oxide, I have a movie that needs to be realigned.

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