Spring Ball, 1984. Adrienne, a straight-A student, joins her quarterback crush Sean and some friends in sneaking out of their high school dance for some unsupervised mayhem. The teensparty plans hit a snag when they run out of gas on a deserted road. They head out on foot and discover a rundown farmhouse where they hope to find help. Instead they find themselves at the mercy of Junior Joad (Mark Wiebe, Sweet Karma), a cannibal killer from an urban legend. After the brutal murder of one of their friends, the group quest for help becomes one of survival. Will anyone survive the night?
Break out your hairspray, your Rubix cubes, your boom boxes and your mixtapes with the retro-themed slasher, LOST AFTER DARK. In the film, Adrienne is the ideal High School student. She's mild-mannered and is a straight A student. In other words, she's headed for greatness, post High School. But it is on this night, that she dares to do something out of the ordinary - at least for her. It is the night of the Spring Ball at her High School. However, instead of staying in for the dance, Adrienne leads the way on a night out with a group of friends(one that includes her crush - Football jock, Sean. They hi-jack a bus, and head to the summer cabin, owned by Adrienne's father, Norman. However, before they can reach their destination, their plans hit an abrupt snag, when the bus runs out of gas in the middle of the road. Now in the dead of night, the group must look for help, when they eventually come upon a farmhouse, which is located on top a hill. The rundown house is creepy indeed, however, they waste no time going inside. It is here that the teens decide to continue their night. However, after a little exploration of said property, it becomes clear that the house is no ordinary house. For it is the house of legend. An urban legend, in regards to the old house, states that a cannibal family named Joad once lived there, and the stories of many disappearances, along with the family's vicious acts, have for years, captured many imaginations of the townsfolk of Broomfield Michigan. The stories couldn't be possibly be true, right? Wrong. Because, as it turns out, one Junior Joad, years ago survived the Police shootout that was said to have killed the entire clan. But unbeknown to everyone, Junior, the last of the Joad family, is still very much still alive, and tonight he has returned home. Unfortunately for Adrienne and her friends, they have just simply ended up being at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Now with Junior Joad back on the bloody prowl, the teens must try to dodge the killer's deadly assault and pray that they escape with their lives.
Yes it's true, that in the recent years, their have been plenty of films, which attempt to emulate popular films of the 70's and 80s. And when it comes to Horror, the genre has been pretty much a front-runner, because there is a lot of material to draw from. I feel that the whole trend seems to have started with the Robert Rodriguez/Quintin Tarantino, joint production, GRINDHOUSE(a double bill of the films, PLANET TERROR and DEATH PROOF), which was released in 2007. Following this release, there have been a number of like-minded films. Films that are made today, but are crafted to look vintage, as to appear as though they were released years ago. Many films have tried to pull this off, however, it's in my opinion, that not many have since succeeded. Sure, you can go all out, and look vintage, but the fact is that, if the film isn't good, no matter how good it looks "effects-wise", nothing will salvage a mess. So this is why I have found only a few of these types of films that work completely.
But on to this film, which was directed by Ian Kessner. LOST AFTER DARK, is a film that I first heard about some 3 months back when I was sent a press release for the film, accompanied with the opportunity to review it. Of course i've heard about plenty of films like it, so initially, I was a little indifferent about the film. However, it was when I saw the film's trailer, that I became really interested in seeing it. Maybe even a little a excited. The trailer presented all that it was about in under 5 minutes; an 80s theme, a retro slasher set-up, and best of all 80s-style prosthetic effects, with no CGI(or at least, none that I am aware of). So after seeing the trailer, I was in. But it would not be until a few months following, that I would finally see this one.
So was it worth the wait? And even more so, is it worth the hype that it is receiving? In my opinion, for the most part, i'd say, kind of, yes. Style-wise, the film seems to have been carefully processed, as it bares the marks of a film of old. There are, of course the expected dust and scratch mark effects sprinkled through out. and there is even the old "missing reel" gag, that also makes an appearance. In terms of story, LOST AFTER DARK is one that will easily feel familiar to Horror fans, as the film's plot seems to have been based from small elements of others. Throughout, one will spot many nods to some of the most successful films of the Horror genre. As hints of films such as, PROM NIGHT, HALLOWEEN, THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, MADMAN and JEEPERS CREEPERS, are apparent and will be easy to recognize(right down to the characters sharing names of some of Horror's most iconic figures). Other areas of the story are developed in the characterization of our group of teens, mostly in pairs, or in threes throughout. Of course there is "Adrienne" and "Sean" Adrienne has a bit of a crush, but little does she know that Sean, does as well. There are also a pair of stoners in "Tobe" and "Marilyn". Tobe is the bigger, funny guy to almost everyone, but all he wants is for Marilyn to like him. There is also "Johnnie" and "Heather" who are a couple who, it seems as though, always themselves in the thick of an argument. There's also "Jamie", one of Adrienne's besties. And last but certainly not least, there's the "tokin black guy", with "Wesley" (who, you'll be happy to know...does not die first). And beyond the group of teen characters who take center stage here, are also a pair of veteran actors. Actor David Lipper portrays Adrienne's dad, "Norman", while the great Robert Patrick plays the ex-war vet, now Principal, "Mr. Cunningham", whom is hellbent on retrieving his students. Collectively, the ensemble is fun enough, as they are the types of characters that we have come to expect from a slasher film. The plot also plays out pretty much as you'd expect - however the films realistic prostetic practical effects, keep things, and a few other things keep things interesting, and fun. Lots of impalements and bloodshed. But perhaps the biggest surprise is not so much the special effects, but rather something else that is related to them. All I will say, is that, just when you think you know who will die in LOST AFTER DARK, think again. Taking a page out of the book of Alfred Hitchcock, one of the film's deaths changes the whole landscape of things, almost instantly. When it happened, I must admit that I was shocked, and with my jaw dropped, I proceeded on with the film, with a smile on my face. It is both, totally clever and unexpected, and is something that definitely moved the film up a notch in my book.
With this said, however, for as much as I did enjoy what I got from LOST AFTER DARK, it is a film that I feel could have fared a little better. It's true that the film is '80s themed, setting itself in 1984 - and so the film features many kitschy things, such as lingo and other items from the period, like a Rubix cube, a boom box cassette tape player, and more. While most of it does add to the film's flavor, things don't always necessarily hit the mark. The film's goal is to have us believe that it is authentically taking place in 1984, but it isn't always to be believed here. This seems to always be the number one problem for a film of this type. While its goal is to appear one way, they slip up and do or say something that clearly indicates that it is a "new production", as opposed to the kind of vintage work that it wants to appear to be . However, once you do get past the fact that LOST AFTER DARK doesn't always "feel" like 1984, you actually do get a fairly good time out of it.
So to sum things up, LOST AFTER DARK is a film that fashions itself in the vein of the slasher heyday of the '80s And in combining some of the best plot elements from some of the best known films of the genre, it is a film that that ends up being a fairly enjoyable one. But as I said, it could have been a little better.
6.5/10 Multiple impalements(drill bit, pitchfork, etc), a beheading, one's foot caught in a bear trap, and one crushed by car. The effects in the movie are pretty good, and mostly are done the old fashion way.
5/10 The film features a suspenseful score, along with multiple song tracks which seem to mimic the popular music of the time period. Most of it is decent, however some of it sounded very Disco, which would be wrong for 1984(especially the tunes that Mr. Cunningham is heard jamming to in his sports car).
IMPRESSION OF THE FILM
This is a rather tough one, because, yes I did enjoy LOST AFTER DARK, however, I expected to enjoy it much more. After viewing the film's trailer, I expected something along the lines of the "next great indie discovery". While I did leave the film being pleased with it, I still reserved the feeling that it could have been improved in some way, and that the film left a little to be desired in the end. But with this in mind, it is a film that I feel that most Slasher fans might enjoy. I know that I, personally, would not be opposed to seeing it again sometime in the future.
This film will be released on Blu-Ray and DVD on September 1, 2015