Maggie Q makes for a compelling action hero. She can shift to the cold, dead in her eyes intensity that genre legends Stallone, Willis, Schwarzenegger, etc. get to on demand. She’s the main draw in Fear the Night, a cabin in the woods survivalist thriller that plays out more matter-of-factly than exhilarating.
Maggie Q plays Tess, an Iraqi war vet still dealing with some demons, including alcoholism, who’s not at all thrilled about traveling to her family’s old, secluded farmhouse for her younger sister’s (Highdee Kuan) bachelorette party. Part of that is due to the ongoing tension with her other sister, Beth (Kat Foster), and her judgmental friends.
Director/Writer Neil LaBute (Out of the Blue) doesn’t do enough in establishing the root of these issues before the party crew makes a stop at a convenience store. There, they run into three not at all suspicious looking dudes, who we’ll clearly see again. LaBute isn’t subtle here immediately painting the dudes like the creeper, cringy guys that you know would be those guys on comment boards.
Tess is still not much in a party mood while the others revel in booze and fun with the male entertainment before crossbow bolts provide the ultimate buzz kill by killing off some of the guests.
Given this kind of story, not all the characters should realistically be expected to survive. Still, I wasn’t a fan of the order in which some of the characters got killed off. True, it leads to some significant shock value and quickly establishes a no one is safe vibe, but it also makes it harder to root for characters beyond Tess since she’s the only lock to see the sunrise.
Performances are generally solid with Foster, Ito Aghayere and Gia Crovatin ensuring that Maggie Q doesn’t have to do all the heavy lifting.
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The invaders avoid guns as Tess theorizes they don’t want to make much noise to avoid alerting any neighbors. This is questionable logic since eight or nine screaming women probably would make a decent amount of noise. While promoting the film, Maggie Q said she asked for no guns to do something different and avoid glorifying gun violence.
It’s a noble effort and makes the killings more creative even if there’s an argument to be made the crossbow bolts through a victim’s eyes, mouths and stomach are just as gruesome. And some viewers might not look at a potato peeler in the same way again.
LaBute doesn’t pace the film like a standard thriller. There’s moments of excitement and suspense, but there’s too many moments of characters just sitting around without much urgency.
Some of the eventual victims do some frustratingly stupid things as if to ensure that they don’t survive. This goes both ways as the invaders also seemingly beg to get killed from their choices as well. And would they really not bring even a handgun in for backup?
LaBute uses time stamps as a transition hack, but it serves more as a distracting element that doesn’t aid in the storytelling. What does it matter if Character K gets killed at 9:37 p.m. and the film jumps to 10:21 p.m.?
This gimmick could work if there were some sort of time component like the vault with all the guns opens up at 6 a.m., but without that it feels pointless and somewhat annoying.
Production values are generally very clean and crisp. Makeup work for the blood is solid and the fight choreography is fine. A needless epilogue squanders any remaining goodwill as a bizarrely antagonistic sheriff (Geoff Pierson, 24) berates Tess for no reason.
Fear the Night has all the parts needed for a good thriller, but LaBute fails to ratchet up the tension and thrills to make it a satisfying suspense invasion film.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Quiver Distribution