Kendra Leigh Timmins
THIS REVIEW IS BASED UPON THE RETAIL BLU-RAY RELEASE PROVIDED BY ANCHOR BAY ENTERTAINMENT CANADA FOR REVIEW
There are few things more appreciated around these parts than a good old school 80s style slasher movie. I can literally sit and watch most of the Friday The 13th movies on any given day (specifically Parts 3 through 6). There is just something about the style and feeling of a good ol’ 80s slasher. Lost After Dark attempts to recreate that vibe, even going so far as to set the film in the 80s. Many films in the past decade or so have tried to reach back and bring forth the feelings of bygone eras, with varying degrees of success.
The film begins in the 70s with a young woman running away from an old dilapidated house before almost falling face first into a bear trap. She is soon taken care of by Junior Joad (Wiebe) before we move forward to the main story, taking place in the storied year of 1984. Good girl Adrienne (Timmins, who also happens to be from my hometown of London, Ontario interestingly enough) has decided to lie to her father about her plans at the high school dance. Her real plan is to take off with a group of classmates in a stolen school bus that they hotwire to take off for her family’s cabin. Of course, this being a horror movie, the bus breaks down on an old road, which just happens to be nearly adjacent to the home of the Joad family. Meanwhile, the school’s vice-principal, Mr. Cunningham (Patrick), who is also a Vietnam veteran who isn’t afraid to tell you, attempts to catch up with the delinquents, before they are picked off one by one.
There is a lot to like about Lost After Dark for a horror fan. Obviously the throwback feel is front and center. Another nice little touch is how every single one of the characters are named after many of the directors and characters that helped establish the huge 80s slasher boom, paying their respects to Friday The 13th director Sean S. Cunningham, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre director Tobe Hooper and of course the late, great Wes Craven. Hell, there is even a subtle nod to Alfred Hitchcock‘s masterpiece Psycho for those paying enough attention. And as a longtime horror fan, I love all these tributes and of course, the attempt to make a modern day movie that could easily fit in with some of the classics from the revered 1980s. Unfortunately, while the film’s heart is definitely in the right place, it just seems to fall drastically short every time it almost breaks through.
One of the foremost aspects of the 80s slasher craze was the creative death scenes. This is what helped make the Friday The 13th movies so successful compared to its counterparts of the time, and then it was of course taken to an entirely different with the dreamscapes provided by A Nightmare On Elm Street (which was released in 1984, the same year this film takes place). And unfortunately none of the kills in the film are rather memorable or iconic in any way. Hell, a few days after watching the film and I am having a hard time remembering maybe half of the kills. One kill scene that sticks in my mind is that of the character Wesley, played by Stephan James, who also happens to be wearing one of the most unconvincing afro hairpieces I’ve ever seen in my life. Wesley is grabbed through a broken windowsill by Junior Joad, and he slowly drags his eye down into a shard of broken glass. As I watched I was super thrilled to be seeing a tribute to the iconic eyeball splinter scene from Lucio Fulci‘s 1979 gorefest Zombie. Unfortunately, all the good will is almost immediately stripped away by the use of some horrible CGI. If they could make a prosthetic effect work so convincingly in 1979, how can they absolutely not get it even half good in 2014?
It’s quite sad that the film just seems to fall short in so many aspects, when the potential was within arm’s reach. Is Lost After Dark one of the worst films I’ve ever seen? Absolutely not, and you can easily argue there are certainly worst ways to spend 90 minutes of your evening. I would call it one of those films that if it were to pop up on Netflix you could throw it on to burn some time, but I’m hard pressed to give a good reason to go out of your way to catch it. At the very least, listening to Robert Patrick go off on his rants about ‘Nam is worth your time.
Lost After Dark is available in stores everywhere now as a DVD or Blu-ray single disc edition from Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada.