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This 2015 found footage flick has the novel invention of not being the POV of a camera but, one of a flashlight belonging to a teen who recently committed suicide in a wooded area, which has been the sight of many such deaths and is rumored to be haunted. A group of five friends enter the spooky woods to play a game called ‘Nightlight’. It’s basically a version of hide and seek set at night using flashlights. The teens know that urban legends speak dire warnings about being in the woods at night, especially near the abandoned old church, but, they enter the woods anyway, only to find out there is something malevolent lurking there and they might be next in a long line of tragic deaths that have taken place there.
As written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, Nightlight is a bit of a mixed bag though, not as bad as early word suggested. The filmmakers do achieve some very spooky moments. There are definitely some chills and even a bit of unexpected bloodshed, too. The film has a creepy visual style, especially with its forest graveyards filled with crosses and very spooky old church that serves as the setting for it’s last act. What holds it back is that at times it appears like a series of spooky vignettes more than a complete, coherent story. We have the basic set-up of teens going into allegedly haunted woods to play a game but, after that, the film seems to be making things up as it goes along. It even switches focus from different characters, as the screenplay splits them up, and has the flashlight dropped and then found by someone else to switch perspective to another person. It gives the film a very fractured feeling, like we are seeing separate stories, despite following the same characters in the same overall setting. There are also a couple of rambling dialog sequences when characters are starting to come apart, that also seem to stop the momentum dead, as our terrified teens bare there souls. Again, the film has some very spooky sequences and the climax is chilling, but, there is a randomness about a lot of it that doesn’t serve the film and there are obviously some very Blair Witch moments, as well, that at this point are far too familiar to be effective.
The cast playing our teens are fine. The only need to be precocious, horny teenagers, at first, then scared later on, and are believable as such. Lead Shelby Young gets the most screen time as Robin, a young woman haunted by the guilt of the suicide of a friend (Kyle Fain) in those woods. She is good considering she has the meatiest role and carries a lot of the film. Chloe Bridges also has a lot of screen time as Nia, but a lot of it is spent in a trance-like state. The rest, Taylor Murphy as Amelia, Carter Jenkins as Chris and Mitch Hewer as Ben are all fine as typical teenagers caught in a very weird situation.
I liked Nightlight to an extent but, didn’t love it. The filmmakers achieve some definite atmosphere and some very spooky sequences but, on a whole, the film sometimes seems to be being made up as it goes along. The cast are fine and the film has a very creepy look to it, but, the randomness of a lot of it works against keeping it’s momentum of dread. That and I personally was a bit annoyed that Robin doesn’t seem too concerned about her dog when they become separated. I know dog people and they would be worried sick if their animal was left out in those woods alone…but, that’s just me. Worth a look but, keep expectations minimal.
2 and 1/2 haunted flashlights.