Release Date(s)2022 (April 5, 2022)
Studio(s)Well Go USA Entertainment
- Film/Program Grade: C
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B
The best horror films combine an intriguing story, creepy atmosphere, and suspense. The combination keeps the viewer involved, anticipating what is to come while immersed in a moody, eerie environment. The Long Night, a low-budget horror flick, never quite succeeds in getting these ingredients to gel.
Grace (Scout Taylor-Compton) has never known her real family and has spent years trying to locate them. When an investigator calls her with news of an important lead on her parents that he must deliver in person, she and boyfriend Jack (Nolan Gerard Funk) drive to the investigator’s isolated plantation home in the Deep South. When they arrive, their host is nowhere to be found, so they let themselves in to wait for him. Soon, peculiar things start to happen. Snakes start turning up everywhere, the couple discover a mysterious altar in the nearby woods, phone reception takes on menacing sounds and, having decided to leave at nightfall, they see that the house is surrounded by ominous figures wearing antlered goat head masks.
These figures eventually close in and the young couple fight them off while trying to figure out what they what. The second half of the film deals with these confrontations, which yield a significant amount of violence and bloodshed. As the plight of the besieged couple intensifies, the masked, silent figures take on the appearance of monsters. Are they human or supernatural? Director Rich Ragsdale and screenwriter Mark Young don’t reveal the answer until late in the film, yet manage to create barely enough suspense to fend off complete boredom.
If the set-up sounds familiar, it is. Many other horror films center on individuals trapped in a remote, weird house in the middle of nowhere, exposed and vulnerable to sinister forces. It’s the variations that determines how effective it is. The Long Night never develops enough cleverness to make it stand out. It has its good moments and is strong on atmosphere, but it’s weak in maintaining suspense. The film becomes tedious when suspense should be building to a climax.
Both Taylor-Compton and Funk play generic types, serviceable ingredients to move the plot forward. We know so little about these two that we never care enough about them to empathize. Funk’s Jack is a sort of arrogant know-it-all who doesn’t project charm. He cares about Grace and does his part defending them as best he can, but fails to realize he’s way over his head in taking on those oddly attired “things” outside the house. Grace has more strength than earlier damsels in distress but is otherwise a stock horror female.
The Long Night was shot by by director of photography Pierluigi Malavasi with Arri Alexa cameras and Cooke anamorphic lenses in the widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The picture is intentionally hazy during night scenes to enhance the creepiness factor. Interior scenes look natural with illumination coming from lamps. Odd camera angles provide a sense of disorientation as Grace and Jack become immersed in an increasingly terrifying situation. Drones are used in outdoor shots to show the expanse of remoteness. A blazing pentagram lights up the night as the hooded figures watch the house. An eerie red glow surrounds the mysterious figures, giving them an otherworldly appearance.
The soundtrack is English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Dialogue is precise and can be heard clearly over the relentless combination of weird music and an ominous, chanting chorus. The telephone emits deep vocal utterances as well as loud crackling. A heavy, insistent knock on the door foreshadows doom, and a ghastly shriek from the hooded “creatures” breaks the quiet of the night. The sound design has been orchestrated to enhance terror and is often scarier than the visuals. English SDH are available.
Bonus materials on the R-rated, Region A Blu-ray release from Well Go USA Entertainment include the following:
- Audio Commentary with Rich Ragsdale, Robert Sheppe, and Jay Gartland
- The Loop Short Film (7:40)
- The Birthing Behind the Scenes Featurette (5:44)
- The Look Behind the Scenes Featurette (5:59)
- The Score Behind the Scenes Featurette (6:41)
- Trailer (2:05)
- Unwelcome Preview (2:19)
- 6:45 Preview (1:40)
- Row 19 Preview (2:08)
The audio commentary features a conversation with director Rich Ragsdale, writer Robert Sheppe, and editor Jay Gartland. Ragsdale discusses how he got the job after two previous directors left the project. Because the filming schedule at the remote house location was locked, the script had to be ready for shooting in about a week. According to Sheppe, the existing script was “a real mess.” He estimated that the running time would be only 60 minutes—too short for a feature film. Added scenes, including a prologue, softened the Grace and Jack characters. The original title was The Target. Several drones were used to enhance the sense of isolation. Nolan ad libbed a lot, adding humor. To save money on actors, crew members played many of the robed, masked figures. The challenge for the writer and the director was to make needed exposition interesting rather than poured out in a lengthy, static monologue. The discussion mentions scenes filmed but eventually deleted from the final film. The climactic confrontation scene was written and re-written seven times. The writer had little time to write, but the editor had plenty of time to edit.
The Loop, directed by Rich Ragsdale, features a young boy who’s watching a horror videotape with his sister and her boyfriend when fantasy horror turns unexpectedly into real horror. The Birthing of The Long Night shows the crew readying and filming the birthing scene, complete with prop abdomen and prop baby. The completed, edited scene as it appears in the final film is shown in the second half. There is no off-screen narration. In The Look of The Long Night, crew members discuss the distinctive visual aspect of the film. The house in the film dates back to the 1700s and is the oldest standing wooden structure in South Carolina. To enhance the creepiness, slow movement, steadi-cam, and long takes were employed. The director and cinematographer Pierluigi Malavasi choreograph a long, uninterrupted take, and then we see it as it appears in the final film. In The Score of The Long Night, composer Sherri Chung discusses the music. A song, Let Me Be, is heard along with music that has sudden peaks and lots of dissonance. She attempted to add emotional gravity to many scenes. The orchestra is shown recording the score while technicians at a console mix and balance the music.
The Long Night seems like a film thrown together after a weekend seminar on horror movie screenwriting. It’s a home invasion thriller with a cult theme that relies on a veil of dread instead of concrete action, chills, or real thrills. Many of the requisite horror flick elements are here, but tossed together in the hope that something will work. The two central characters aren’t interesting, there’s a sense of deja vu throughout, and it commits the worst sin of a horror film—it gets duller as it proceeds instead of gathering steam in anticipation of a powerful ending.
- Dennis Seuling