Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Neil LaBute’s Fear the Night

Usually, rural folk are more respectful of veterans. Creepy Perry thinks his attitude is okay, because he considers himself a vet too, but Tess can tell he never saw a day of combat. She is the real deal, so Perry should have given her a wide berth. Instead, he and a few friends lay siege to her parents’ country home, looking for a cache of drug money in Neil LaBute’s Fear the Night, which releases this Friday in theaters and on VOD.

Nobody in the family had been to their parents’ old place in years, but Tess’s judgy sister Beth still wanted to have their little sister Rose’s bachelorette party for there anyway. When they stop at the general store, Perry and his knuckle-dragging sidekicks try to hassle the ladies, but Tess is having none of it. When they get to the house, the care-takers seem a little dodgy. So much so, Tess starts snooping around their cottage, overhearing some of their drug business as a result.

When night falls, Perry and his goons start shooting arrows into the house. Tess isn’t sure whether the “caretakers” are with them or not. It is pretty clear Tess is the only one the bachelorette party can count on, even though they have been whining and snarking at her all night.

You would never know from the pedestrian look and vibe of
Fear the Night that LaBute was once considered a major voice in drama and independent cinema. Then the Nic Cage Wicker Man remake happened. This is generally watchable, largely thanks to Maggie Q, who is a highly credible action star. However, LaBute never cranks up the violence enough for fans of home invasion-revenge horror and his gender warfare dialogue lacks the bite of his 1990s career-defining work.

Basically, this film is Maggie and not much else. Frankly, Travis Hammer does not make a worthy antagonist for her as the generically rednecky Perry. None of his running-mates have any personality whatsoever. Only Kat Foster makes any kind of supporting impression as the relentlessly resentful sister Beth.

It is nice to see a veteran as the film’s focal character, but LaBute also sort of gives us a vet bad guy as well, so that credit doesn’t go very far. The execution is competent, but it needed more edge, which is a strange thing to say about a LaBute film.
Fear the Night is just okay, so it is hard to recommend it when it releases this Friday (7/21).