Night of the Bastard opens in 1978, an appropriate time for a film steeped in the desert-dwelling Satanic cult traditions of Enter the Devil, The Brotherhood of Satan, Race With the Devil, and The Devil’s Rain.
Andy (Luke B. Carlson, Aberdeen, Get Gone) and his pregnant girlfriend Lily (Avery Joy Davis, Panic, The Ballet Slippers) are on their way to visit Andy’s brother and the friends he’s made since moving to the desert. Enter a Manson-like cult led by Maxine (Talia Martin, A Kiss on Candy Cane Lane, Proof of God) who has plans for them all, especially Lily’s unborn child.
Forty years later and Reed (London May, Verotika, Burying the Ex) lives alone, apart from Marlon the Turtle, out in the desert. When we first meet him he’s passed out on the ground, an empty mason jar by his side. This apparently is a common occurrence. He’s a miserable old bastard and when he sees Kiera (Mya Hudson, Ghosts, A Wall Awa), Pete (Cesar Cipriano, Die Fighting, How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse), and George (Philip Rossi, Oil and Water, Harbingers) camping at the edge of his property he shows up with a shotgun.
This sets a bloody chain of events in motion. As the trio looks for a new place to pitch their tents they stumble across the cult, now led by Claire (Hannah Pierce, Zombie Bounty Hunter M.D., A Flock of Dudes) although Maxine, now played by Victoria Goodhart (Tiger Within, Captain Black), is still around as well. Fleeing for her life Kiera turns up at Red’s trailer with the cult close behind.
Night of the Bastard is director Erik Boccio’s first feature but he has a long list of shorts to his credit including Blood Bath for Crypt TV and Weirdfellas for Funny or Die. He gets the film off to an impressively bloody and nasty start during the prologue. While it’s not exactly extreme horror it’s well past what you usually get from a mainstream film.
The script by Chuck Foster and Christian Ackerman who previously collaborated on Joe Bob’s Haunted Drive-In and Zombie gives him plenty of opportunities to put the pain on the screen, from kills to nasty-looking wounds and DIY surgery. This was one time I couldn’t complain about the quantity or quality of the effects.
The film settles into a fairly tense home invasion/siege scenario as the cult looks to offer a few more sacrifices to their dark master and our leads try to get out alive. There are the usual attempts to get in and the attempts to escape. They’re not overly elaborate and given Night of the Bastard’s small budget and cast have to be somewhat restrained, but they are effectively staged.
The script does have a couple of twists to update it and avoid being a total rehashing of grindhouse tropes, but for the most part, it sticks close to its roots. It also avoids adding digital scratches and film damage, for which I am extremely grateful. That trend was over before it began as far as I’m concerned.
On the downside, some of the acting is a bit rough and screamy and the dialogue matches it. Claire says “brother” more times than Hulk Hogan cutting a promo for Wrestlemania’s main event and some of the tough guy dialogue is more silly than intimidating.
In case the title and what I’ve said so far haven’t made it clear, Night of the Bastard is not PC and does not play it safe. The final act pushes boundaries in some other directions as well with a bit of perversity that you probably won’t find in too many other recent genre films. It’s an authentically grim, bloody, and sleazy throwback, and just the film I was hoping it would be.