Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by Neil LaBute.
Starring Maggie Q, Kat Foster, Travis Hammer, Gia Crovatin, Highdee Kuan, and James Carpinello.
USA 2023 93 mins Certificate: 15


Released on Digital by 101 Films on September 25th 2023.


Here’s an oddity: a kind of grown-up SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE scenario crossed with STRAW DOGS and written and directed by Neil LaBute, the prolific playwright, screenwriter and filmmaker who broke out with the savage, Sundance-winning office satire IN THE COMPANY OF MEN back in 1997. His subsequent career has been eclectic to say the least, veering from mainstream hits like LAKEVIEW TERRACE and the fascinating (though dreadful) 2006 Nicolas Cage THE WICKER MAN remake to SyFy’s ham-fisted VAN HELSING TV series.


The generically entitled FEAR THE NIGHT, shot by LaBute’s frequent collaborator Rogier Stoffers has an excellent performance by Maggie Q as Tess, an Iraq war veteran battling alcoholism and now teaching defence classes. She describes herself self-deprecatingly as “Mr Miyagi with tits”. Tess is temporarily living with her neurotic, prudish, unwelcoming sister Beth (Kat Foster), and both are reluctantly uniting to attend their younger sister Rose’s (Highdee Kuan) bachelorette party at their family farm in the middle of nowhere. Tess hates Beth’s friends, and the feeling seems mutual – which doesn’t help when she attempts to raise suspicions of the property’s seemingly shady male caretakers. After the party goers have begun quaffing booze and bantering about hand jobs and the mile-high club, the group are subjected to a sustained assault from crossbow-wielding attackers. The antagonists cryptically promise, “All we want is what’s inside the house”, while happy to kill anyone in their way.


Maggie Q’s awesome, hilarious take down of a gathering of sexist sleazeballs at a convenience store confirms her traumatised but feisty character as one worth rooting for. It's a shame almost everybody else in the movie is significantly more one-note. LaBute has spent his career commenting on the battle of the sexes (including via that unloved WICKER MAN redux) and this is no different: alongside obligatory references to Trump and the underlying theme of America’s treatment of its war veterans, this evolves into a female-driven fight-back quasi-slasher movie with frustrated villains lamenting “Why do women gotta be so goddamn difficult?” while the resilient ladies get corny kiss-off lines like “You fucked with the wrong girls”.


It's an odd hybrid of throwback exploitation movie, social commentary and gallows humour and never quite clicks in any department and bows out with a curiously downbeat epilogue. LaBute is right to convey the U.S. legal system’s cynical treatment of female victims of violence – but the movie is missing a satisfactory dramatic resolution. Some tension is sustained from the increasingly bloody siege scenario, set in one location over a single night, though the meth-seeking bad guys are disappointingly dull when we finally see more of them. Maggie Q is the best thing about it, and there’s one genuinely startling/hilarious moment of brutality set against the absurdity of the party’s buff male chef/stripper in just his pants. Alas, the climactic, pitchfork-enhanced battle can’t quite overcome the uneven pace and tone.


Steven West.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans