Review: Gone in the Night

Title: Gone in the Night

Describe This Movie Using One Death Becomes Her Quote:

LISLE VON RHUMAN: This is life’s ultimate cruelty. It offers us a taste of youth and vitality, and then it makes us witness our own decay.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Couples therapy takes on a new meaning.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2 delicious cows out of 5.

Tagline: N/A

Better Tagline: “Everything old is … still old, actually.”

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Kath (Winona Ryder) and Max (John Gallagher Jr.) are looking forward to an impromptu weekend at a remote cabin, but their plans are thrown into disarray when they find Al (Owen Teague) and Greta (Brianne Tju) have already booked it. The younger couple tell them they can stay, but when Max and Greta disappear, Kath looks up Nick Barlow (Dermot Mulroney), the cabinet’s owner, to try and get to the bottom of things.

“Critical” Analysis: Movies about aging are a steady cinematic presence, and why not? The act of getting older is one of life’s few common experiences (assuming you live long enough, of course), with the result that every generation’s filmmakers attempt to come to grips with their immortality in ways both dignified (Tokyo Story, Harry and Tonto) and not so much (The Bucket List).

Horror is no different. Often political and (almost) always topical, the genre has turned a fresh eye on the subject, with films like Old and Relic exploring it in newly frightening ways. Gone in the Night isn’t quite as scary as the former, nor as stylish as the latter, which regrettably doesn’t leave a whole lot to work with.

The premise, for starters (and when director Eli Horowitz finally gets around to it), is an overly familiar one, but one that could still work if we hadn’t spent half the movie chasing red herrings that would’ve been a lot more interesting.

Another issue is the casting. Max is a toolbag, even before he starts clumsily flirting with Greta, and someone whose fate we have a difficult time giving a shit about. To her credit, Ryder — whom I have loved from afar since Heathers — is quite plausible as a woman whose exasperation with her current beau is butting up against her feelings that she somehow deserves less than she does.

Which is why we go along with her concern (despite her protestations to the contrary) after he fails to return after a week. Things actually start looking up when the silver foxy Barlow agrees to meet her, though he’s cagey about his own unsuccessful past in bio-engineering startups (no red flags there).

We also learn, in flashbacks, that Max was perhaps more sensitive than he let on, and also about heretofore unknown connections between him and the other couple. It’s all accompanied with dawning awareness about what may have gone down. Al (Owen Teague, much more agreeable than his latent serial killer character in It) and Greta are a weird ass pairing, but Max’s hipster doofusitis prevents him from processing the obvious warning signs.

Gone in the Night is thankfully only mildly nonlinear, and Horowitz teases things out right up to the point of annoyance, but still keeps the short narrative chugging along towards the inevitable “shocking” conclusion.

Unfortunately, it’s the brevity that also works against Gone in the Night (guess the original SXSW title The Cow wasn’t scary enough). Horowitz and co-writer Matthew Derby flirt with the tribulations of getting older, and the existential terror that sometimes (okay, often) results, but never get past a mere surface examination before everything goes tits up.

Speaking of aging, it’s nice to see Mulroney can still charm, and Ryder is able to balance her involvement with the juggernaut that is Stranger Things with smaller films like this. What little there is to recommend Gone in the Night is largely thanks to them. Otherwise, the actual process of growing old and the accompanying grim specter of death is scarier than anything presented here.

Wait, Didn’t Where the Crawdads Sing Come Out This Week?
Yeah, but my daughter is out of town and she threatened me with grievous bodily harm if I went without her.

Gone in the Night is in theaters today.

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