LOST AFTER DARK (2014)
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Lost After Dark is a homage to 80s horror flicks that takes place in 1984, though it lacks a real 80s feel. The film has a group of Broomfield, Michigan high school kids hijacking a school bus to go to a cabin, for a weekend of partying, that belongs to good girl Adrienne’s (Kendra Leigh Timmins) father. The bus runs out of gas on a secluded stretch of road, stranding the kids in the middle of nowhere. While seeking help, they discover an old house nearby. Unknown to them, the abandoned looking structure is home to a murderous redneck cannibal, who sees the hapless teens as delivery. Will any of them survive the night?
Director Ian Kessner’s throwback horror, that he co-wrote with Bo Randell, has it’s heart in the right place, but never feels like an 80s movie despite the music and clothes. Maybe it was the handheld cameras, which wasn’t a popular filming method back then (save for Sam Raimi’s wild camerawork in Evil Dead), or that the characters just felt more like contemporary teens. Kessner’s direction is also a little too by-the-numbers and the film needed to be a bit livelier, as there was a buoyancy to a lot of the 80s slasher’s that would have helped here. The killer also had no personality, nor was he all that menacing and it would have worked better for him, if the backstory given at the end, came earlier in the form of an urban legend…maybe a story told by one of the kids to spook the others. It would have fit the 80s slasher mold better and set up our villain and given him some character development. The opening flashback to 1977 isn’t quite enough, though works in a more traditional sense, as these films usually had a flashback pre-credit sequence. On the good side, this is still a mildly amusing slasher. There is some really good and plentiful gore with some solid kills. Kessner also plays with our expectations as to who our final girl would be and that made it interesting. The location was spooky and the film was not without some atmosphere. There was also a really gross and fun Lucio Fulci reference, that was cool if you are familiar with his flicks. Not completely successful in it’s attempt, but was watchable and there was some heart in the effort.
Robert Patrick is the only familiar name here, as the tough ex-soldier principal. Though, his being an ex-soldier doesn’t really factor in and just serves to give him a hard-nosed personality. The young cast give their characters their all and while none really stand out, none fail miserably either. The usual stereotypes are present, such as virgin (Timmins), virgin’s best friend (Elise Gatien) princess (Lanie McAuley), rebel (Alexander Calvert), jock (Justin Kelly), tough girl (Eve Harlow), nerd (Jesse Comacho) and the token black character (Stephan James), which are all fine for a homage. While I won’t spoil who our final girl turns out to be, the actress does fine when handed the job. Mark Wiebe plays cannibal redneck Junior Joad, in an obvious fake beard and wig, but his killer lacked menace and wasn’t very physically imposing either. You need a strong villain and a strong final girl to make a slasher really click. Here we got it half right.
Overall, this movie was well intended, but missed the mark. It wasn’t totally unsuccessful as it did entertain, but never felt like an 80s slasher and didn’t connect on some of the things it needed to, to be like one. There are some good kills and gore and the cast all give it their all, so it is worth a look. Even if director/co-writer Ian Kessler didn’t give it the energy it needed and didn’t quite accomplish the 80s feel, there is still some fun to be had.
2 and 1/2 glass shards. Will let you find out what that’s about, yourselves.