Judge Gordon Sullivan has this nasty habit of dropping night all the time.
Tonight the victims fight back!
Generic is often a dirty word, one that connotes a lesser product. There's a certain shine that's lost when something gets called "generic," as opposed to the name brand. Of course, it doesn't have to be an insult. Genres are wonderful things that helps us know what to expect in a film. If you don't like people falling on banana peels, don't go see a slapstick comedy; if you love cowboys and horses, the Western is for you. Sometimes we want to see something that's different, but not that different from what we know. Hence, the filmmakers that churn out endless variations on the four or five really popular genres at any given moment, from Hangover-influenced comedies to sparkling vampire Twilight tales. As Night Falls fits perfectly into this category, a generic slasher-style film with a ghost-girl twist. Though it doesn't deliver anything particularly novel, it's a decent example of low-budget horror filmmaking that hits all the expected beats.
Liz (Deenan Melody, The Family) is your typical teenage girl. Her mother has to work two jobs after the death of her father, so Liz is stuck caring for her little sister in their house in the middle of nowhere, where the mortgage is cheap. Liz is happy, though, because her rock-star boyfriend has just arrived back from tour, though to her surprise, her house is going to be used as the site of a party the night he returns. What none of them know is that the house is possessed by the ghost of a Prohibition-era girl, one who's trying to warn them that the forces that killed her will strike again.
Do we have a family in reduced circumstances, where tension between generations runs high? Check. Is there a ghost that seems to menace the house? Check. Is that ghost really a feint that hides a darker, more malevolent menace? Check. There's your ghost story beats all hit on the head. Do we also have a group of teenagers intent on partying hard? Check. Do they engage in illicit behaviors like drinking and premarital sex? Check. Do they get punished for these transgressions with death? Check. That's it, the film hits all its slasher-style beats as well.
That's pretty much all you need to know about As Night Falls: It offers the standard pleasures of the teen slasher with a ghost-story twist. If that's what you're looking for, you could do worse than this film. Of course that's not all. As Night Falls wins a few points for style. We are introduced to Liz as she's bent over her engine, fixing her car. She's not presented as a butch stereotype (as many horror films try to give us), but as a competent young woman who has to be strong to help her mom and her sister. She finds ways to avoid being a victim that don't put her squarely in the "Final Girl" category we usually see in slashers. She's a character who seems designed to appeal to a wider audience, with little of the asexual quality that so many Final Girls seem to share.
The film also wins points for casting. Deenan Melody does a great job with Liz, making her tough and interesting, especially in a sea of sometimes-mediocre low-budget acting. That acting would work against the film, but luckily it's got scream queen Debbie Rochon in its back pocket. Rochon doesn't often get to play villainous roles, but she relishes the opportunity here, giving a performance that's deliciously over the top.
This DVD does the film justice. The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer does a fine job with the HD visuals. The picture is generally clear and bright, with good sharpness and fine color saturation. Black levels tend to be consistent and pretty deep, with no major artefacts cropping up. The 2.0 stereo audio option is pretty good as well. Dialogue is generally audible, and stereo separation is okay. There are English captions for those moments when the ghost's voice gets a little hard to understand.
Extras start with 45 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage. Broken down by day (with a "play all" option), these featurettes give us a good sense of what was happen each day on set. We also get a short film, a music video, photo gallery, and the film's trailer. It's a pretty solid set of extras for a low-budget feature.
If you want to be picky, generic can be a bad thing. As Night Falls doesn't really bring anything new to the table, and the execution of the material is fine, but nothing to write home about. Those looking for new scares or novel pleasures should steer clear.
As Night Falls is a fine little indie horror film. It has modest goals and meets them adequately. Certainly viewers could do much worse than this film, and with the solid presentation and extras this disc is easy to recommend for a rental.
Generic, but not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Breaking Glass
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