By: Josh Taylor
Horror as a genre has all kinds of tropes and parameters. If you’ve ever seen the original Scream then you know exactly what I’m talking about. When done right, they feel fresh and surprising. When done poorly, they come off as boring and predictable. THE LONG NIGHT is a movie full of horror tropes. Even its name feels like a horror trope, classic but mysterious. The film follows Grace (Scout-Taylor Compton) who lives in New York City with her boyfriend Jack (Nolan Gerard Funk). Grace is on the hunt for her parents, whom she’s never actually known, when she gets a call from an investigator. The city slick couple leave behind their minimalist apartment for a plantation in the American South. They arrive at an empty home, which on its own isn’t frightening, but soon they are haunted by a cult and stuck in a house that has secrets. Director Rich Ragsdale is mostly known for his work on music videos and short films, and it shows. The visuals throughout THE LONG NIGHT are tremendous. I’d go further in saying that nearly every frame on screen is a beautiful still image. There is lots of imagery featuring snakes, animal skulls, cults in black robes and hoods, and beautiful drone shots of both New York City and the deep south.
The film, split up into smaller chapters, gives the sense that this movie could be seen as several shorts strung together to tell a larger story. While not completely true, I do enjoy the use of chapter titles, as they give clues to what we will see next. My big issue with this movie is that I can easily guess what is likely to happen next, leaving a film with a 90-minute runtime feeling much longer. The acting from the cast is pretty good, especially from Compton, who I fully believe is in over her head, the moment she arrives on the plantation. There are moments within the film where she plays confusion, frustration, and anger so well. Jeff Fahey also sells me with his acting as Wayne, who I loved watching yell at our hero couple when he first meets them. I’d also point out that Nolan Gerard Funk’s Jack is either written or played to be a bit of a jerk. He’s on this hunt for Grace’s parents, but he is never fully invested. He feels like the manipulative boyfriend who takes no interest in his girlfriend’s life. The unlikability made me not want to root for him, and in turn, made me not care for the times when I saw him and Grace on screen together. Again, falling into tropes, I’m sure you can guess what happens to him, and it’s a big disappointment. I would have loved to have seen a real romance on screen that would have broken my heart if either of them were to fall victim to our villainous cult.
Ultimately I don’t care about any of the characters on screen, beyond Compton’s Grace, which leaves me hoping she makes it to the end of the film. THE LONG NIGHT is a film worth seeing for its visuals, but those visuals aren’t followed up with a particularly interesting story. It's the kind of movie you might enjoy on a night in at home alone, or maybe even with a group of friends, but it likely won’t be a film you remember.
THE LONG NIGHT is available to watch On Demand.