Director: Ian Kessner
Script: Ian Kessner and Bo Ransdell
Cast: Alexander Calvert, Jesse Camachu, Elise Gatien, Eve Harlow, Stephen James, Justin Kelly, Lanie McAuley, Robert Patrick
Running time: 82 minutes
The prologue of this deliberately retro take on the ‘slasher’ genre is set in Michigan during 1977. A young woman runs from a scary looking farmhouse only to get caught in a mantrap and then later butchered by a hulking nutter who materialises behind her, from out of the darkness.
Cut to the same state, but now in 1984, and a bunch of the usual Scooby Doo type teens have been lying to their parents about taking sleepovers round at each other’s houses when they’re real intention is to ‘borrow’ the school bus, after the school dance/prom event, and hightail it to a camp-site a couple of hours drive away, where they can party for the rest of the weekend and not be bothered by any interfering, goody-two-shoes adults.
As one would expect from a slasher film, things don’t exactly go to plan for our rebellious teenagers and the students forget that to go anywhere vehicles need fuel, which doesn’t dawn on them until an hour into their trip when the bus runs out of gas and comes to a shuddering halt in the middle of nowhere, down a winding country lane. Oops! A couple of them set off to see if they can find a gas station or even a place for them to crash over-night. The two of them – the fat nerdy kid and the requisite Goth chick – find a dilapidated farmhouse that eagle-eyed viewers will instantly recognise from the sinister prologue. They decide to head back and report to the rest of the group.
After a bit more larking around the whole group descends on the farmhouse and it doesn’t take long for them to realise that all is not quite how it should be – shades of a certain film with the words ‘Chainsaw’ and ‘Texas’ spring to mind. Soon the youngsters are being terrorized by the massive Joab, who calls the rundown farmstead his home. Well, they were trespassing after all!
For a fan of the slasher genre Lost After Dark is a bit like settling down with a comforting mug of Horlicks and getting cosy in front of a rumbling fire. There’s not a lot of originality, but what is here is well done, and it’s a fun fear ride.
The characters are pretty well fleshed out, although there are no real surprises amongst them, and they are all nicely essayed by a game young cast who look like they’re having fun travelling on this particular dark fairy-tale fun ride. In fact I kind of wanted most of them to survive to the end, which is unusual in itself for this kind of movie. They weren’t too annoying and actually behaved fairly sensibly once death came a knocking…
The ominous music suits the visuals well, and the director delivers a few reasonably effective shocks, although I didn’t ‘jump’ like I sometimes do while watching this kind of film. The creepy location works well, although I thought many of the scenes could have been better lit. I know it was mainly set at night, but filmmakers can always be creative and use ‘moonlight’ to good effect.
Two things I really did like about the movie were the fact that it did manage to surprise me a couple of times, especially with the order of the deaths, and I enjoyed the dialogue, which felt believable and was often funny. Robert Patrick (Terminator 2: Judgement Day) has a great extended cameo, as one of the teachers, Mr C, and milks it for all its worth, and he supplies some of the best lines in the film. For example, when he sees his students stealing the bus he exclaims: ‘God damn turds went AWOL!’ And later he shouts out at the nutter: ‘Come on you commie, pink, fag bastard!’ Another favourite line of mine was when the blonde bimbo girl of the errant group cries out: ‘I don’t want to be eaten by a cannonball!’
What I liked less was the fact that the film thinks it’s being all retro and smart by setting the film in the 80s, but then doesn’t really do anything with that fact, apart from have one character throw away her Rubik’s Cube out of the bus window; and for some reason the film pretends to lose a reel, so just as one character is about to be murdered we suddenly get a sign saying ‘reel missing’ and then the film continues on to a different period of time in the running order of events. This turned out to be a useful technique for the filmmakers, but was irritating for this particular viewer.
However, overall I rather enjoyed Lost After Dark with its daft dialogue, cool cameos and nicely variable kills. You know you’re in ‘safe horror hands’ when the first attack involves barbed wire and a poor kid being crucified onto a barn door!
Metrodome are distributing Lost After Dark on DVD. Frustratingly, there were no extras on the disc.