Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Night – review


Directed by: Byron C Miller

Release Date: 2006

Contains spoilers

Night is a hard film to review in that it is obviously low budget, with some poor acting and some implausibility and yet it does rise above its limitations and whilst some of the more arty moments are superfluous it has some nice ideas thrown into it, playing with the genre standards in interesting, and on occasions understated, ways.

The film begins with a robbery gone bad in a bar. Cop Mike Jericho (John Hardy) enters the bar and tries to talk to the robber (Will Green) having dropped his gun. bullets cannot hurt me...The robber threatens to shoot Mike and Mike’s partner Jimi Cannon (Shawn Le Tang) tackles him from behind. The robber lets off a shot and it hits a bystander, we later discover to be Tonia (Melanie Ginnett). Mike notices that she has been hit and yet she does not fall, in fact she serenely crosses her arms over her wound. All this becomes lost as they stop the robber. The two cops go to a bar, Jimi wanting to go on to a club, but Mike is distracted. Tonia is on his mind, though he says nothing about what he saw.

a really bad dreamMike goes home alone, briefly seeing a figure of a man, Konatsu (John Park), who vanishes. Jimi goes to the club and, at home, Mike has nightmarish dreams. Firstly he speaks to Jimi, though the conversation is odd and then he is in a white space and sees the girl laid out. He touches her and there are flashes of images, then he vomits blood at which point he awakens suddenly.

The next day Mike goes missing, taking the day off work to look for the girl and his search running into the weekend. During this period he is watched by Tonia who, eventually, makes contact. She turns Mike and this is one of the nicer understated touches. She feeds from his wrist and then forces him to feed from her neck, a polar opposite of the normal turning scene, which tends to be neck then wrist. He seems wracked with spasm and then becomes elated. Tonia takes him to see ‘the others’, there is a group of vampires living together and who are of a diverse set of backgrounds and ethnicity.

One at the house, Luther (Ronny Vega), is an interesting character in a genre sense. He is a Renfield type character who shoots up vampire blood and can venture into the sunlight whilst keeping all the vampire strengths including immortality. The logic of how that works was woolly, to say the least, but it was fascinating.

aftermath of the first feedMike is told he is a vampire (because, of course, having your blood drained and then being fed blood, causing an elated high, isn’t a dead giveaway) but he does not wish to kill. He leaves the house and, as Tonia promised, instinct takes over and he feeds – fleeing the scene when he realises that Konatsu is watching him. Tonia tells Mike that Konatsu is an old friend and nothing to worry about but later we hear that the others find him eerie and he is Tonia’s sire.

Mike quickly takes to his new life but Jimi is looking for him and so, via Luther, Mike sets up a story to keep his partner off his trail and cause Jimi to believe he is dead and his body is lost. However, as the saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men…

The vampires in this are somewhat different to your standard vampire. They live in a close-knit family unit and are, generally, supportive of each other. The family unit idea was reminiscent of that portrayed in Near Dark but this “family” was less dysfunctional. Of the traditional remedies, stakes through the heart, crosses and garlic etc do not work. Enough damage will make them go into a comatose state, whilst they heal, and fire (and sunlight) are the only solution. They are stronger and faster than a human, do not age and never grow sick. One of the nice things about the film is the fact that what we are seeing is the acceptance of the vampiric condition by a mortal turned. It is clear that killing to survive is painful at first, Mike cries following his first kill, but he quickly becomes as one with his new life and actually identifies the moment this happens. We also discover that the vampires, or Tonia at least, can trick a mortal’s mind – in fact she turned Mike because the mind trick she tried on him failed.

On the downside, the DVD sound for the dialogue was a little low, though the soundtrack itself generally worked and had a nice industrial/ambient feel – I don’t think that it took me through the “the same unpredictable range of emotions as the characters” as the homepage promises, nor did the characters for that matter, but it suited the film well. The arty shots sometimes got in the way and made the film feel cluttered.

Some of the acting and, to be fair, some of the casting was poor – special mention should go to Jimi’s unnamed cop friend who seemed so out of place and whose performance was definitely below average. The best performance, to me, was Ginnett as Tonia, who fit the role well seeming aloof and mysterious and yet also personable – for a killer who created a whole family unit of vampires. that's gotta hurtI was less taken by Le Tang who just didn’t gel for me. I did like the side character Nathaniel (Kelly Weaver) a vampire in pain, who was turned with his wife some one hundred years before but she could not handle the vampiric condition, died as a result and, a century on, he still mourns for her (he seemed the only angst-ridden vampire, but I liked the way that came out, especially when we see him hunt).

Some of the scenes, for example those of Jimi’s love life, to me, added nothing to the film, having said that the scene where Mike and Tonia finally get it together, which has juxtaposed scenes of the rest of the vampire family hunting – some seductive and others brutal, worked well. I also said early on that I felt that some parts of the film seemed implausible and that mainly surrounded the action. The vampires are faster and stronger than a human. We see Luther take out several street gang members armed with only a switchblade. Yet whenever Jimi rumbled with the vamps he seemed to come out on top. messyIn fact, during a fight with Luther, he holds his own really well. One questions, given the amount of damage it is apparent is needed to slow one of these creatures down, just how a mortal could hold their own at all – especially as the fight between Jimi and Luther was hand to hand. It almost seemed that they were trying to make Jimi a mortal facsimile of Blade and that just didn’t work.

All in all, however, I fairly enjoyed this as, amongst a fairly ordinary main plot, the film makers tried to do something different with the genre. It was nice to see vampires who accepted their condition, revelled in it even, as the fashion seems to be for angst amongst the living dead. Don’t get me wrong with the plot, there was some nice game playing involved but it was a little transparent. There was some effort put into this but my guess is it was let down by funds (or lack of them) and I’ll give the film 4 out of 10 and say it is worth a watch for genre fans.

The film has a homepage with trailer as well as a MySpace page. The imdb page is here.

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