Fear the Night (2023) Review
Fear the Night opens with a confrontation, though not the kind you might expect from a home invasion thriller. Tes (Maggie Q, The Protégé, Death of Me) is going through a trunk full of scrapbooks in the attic when her sister Beth (Kat Foster, A Spoonful of Sugar, Gasoline Alley) appears and snaps at her for going through her stuff. Tes points out these are family heirlooms, not hers only for the subject to be changed to Tes swearing in front of Beth’s daughter despite the fact the girl isn’t even in the house at the moment.
These dysfunctional siblings have been brought together by a bachelorette party although it’s not exactly clear why. It’s obvious that Tes, who is suffering from PTSD and struggling to readjust to society, likes these people about as much as they like her.
After the obligatory run-in with some obnoxious rednecks at a convenience store, they arrive at the isolated farmhouse where the party is being held, We also meet the bride-to-be, their third sister Rose (Highdee Kuan, Proximity, Run for the Truth) who seems to be the only one Tes is actually on good terms with and the reason she’s here.
Writer/director Neil LaBute has become so associated with his disastrous remake of The Wicker Man and work on shows like Van Helsing that it’s easy to forget that he began his career with acclaimed and insightful films such as In the Company of Men and Your Friends and Neighbors. Unfortunately, rather than use that talent to give the characters in Fear the Night a bit of depth LaBute gives us barely sketched archetypes.
We know Beth is a control freak which is more than can be said about the others. They’re superficial and seem stuck in the memories of their college days. We know Tes was medevaced out of Fallujah but that’s it. Did she use to be like the others, or was she always a loner who did things like sneak into the caretakers’ house on a suspicion?
Thankfully once a band of armed men turn up around Fear the Night’s thirty-minute mark and arrows, yes I said arrows not bullets, start slamming into chests and tearing through eye sockets that becomes less important, though it still means most of the cast are disposable victims that at best we don’t really care about and at worst wish would die so we didn’t have to listen to them.
Today ’terror’ comes from within ourselves and from those around us we scare ourselves by imaging what our neighbors are really up to and who that new person is who moved into the apartment at the end of the hall. We’re much more likely to have a bad boyfriend or a nasty stepmother or a scary guy accost us in the grocery store than we are to run into some fantastical, phantasmagorical creature from beyond. There is an everyday evil that pervades our modern lives and that is simply the world we live in.Neil LaBute, writer/director Fear the Night
In other words, Fear the Night is a fairly standard home invasion thriller with some particularly nasty villains led by Bart (James Carpinello, The Punisher, Midway) and Perry (Travis Hammer, How to Blow Up a Pipeline, VFW) who make it clear that rape and murder are as much a part of their plans as is finding whatever valuables are hidden in the house.
Neil LaBute stages this all with a nice efficiency and a fair amount of tension as the characters are forced to make some hard choices in the name of survival. The violence, while not overly gory is convincingly staged and rendered with sound designer Lawrence He’s (The Standoff at Sparrow Creek, The Price We Pay) work making up for what the darkness of Rogier Stoffers (Death Wish, School of Rock) natural light cinematography hides. And for once, there’s an epilogue that actually adds to the film rather than simply dishing up a final jump scare or setting up a sequel.
While not the film it could have been, Fear the Night is a good enough thriller that delivers enough action and suspense to make up for its shortcomings. It won’t stop people from thinking “Not the bees!” when they hear LaBute’s name, but it is worth a watch.
Quiver Distribution will release Fear the Night in theatres as well as on Digital and VOD Platforms on July 21st. If you’re not done with your night, FilmTagger can offer a few ideas on what to watch next.