Dir. Neil LaBute (2023)
An Iraq war veteran and a group of her friends celebrating a bacholerette party must square off against home invaders looking for a hidden fortune inside the house.
Home invasion movies seem like they're a dime a dozen nowadays, and it's rare to come across a new one that adds anything to the genre as a whole. There's always a group of people who are severely outgunned until one of them reveals themselves to be a secret badass who can use the limited resources available to whoop some robber ass. There are inevitable casualties, but the "final girl" of the home invasion scenario always manages to beat back the bad guys and come out on top using only her wits and unrestrained badassery that she surpresses in her regular, everyday life. Fear the Night doesn't break any of these rules and isn't particularly inventive, other than revealing within the opening scenes that its heroine is a Iraq war veteran who was wounded in the line of duty and probably has the best chance of survival over her sisters and friends who have gathered for a bachelorette party off in the middle of nowhere.
Tess (Maggie Q, who the producers must have felt wasthe only good thing about this movie because the poster is just a giant picture of her with her name on it) is the aforementioned Army badass, who manages to be almost completely unlikeable in just the first five minutes of the film. She runs into another veteran (who is, of course, less impressive than she is) in a local gas station and immediately starts a fight, keying his car on the way out of store. If you haven't already guessed, the men she fought with also have a penchant for home invasion, attacking the gathered bachelorette guests with crossbows in a surprisingly brutal faceoff that carries through for the rest of the film. Of course, they're there for a reason, largely convoluted and having little to do with the rest of the characters involved, but it provides a reason for the mayhem and I suppose works to further the plot.
Fear the Night is hardly a good movie, but it is largely enjoyable despite its relatively cookie cutter plot. The acting is good enough to carry the film, and while I'm not a fan of Maggie Q, she does a fine job in the lead. She's a believable badass, surprisingly, and does a good job of displaying some awesome fighting skills while dispatching bad guys with ease. The gore is also shockingly good, with some fantastic scenes of carnage that I didn't expect from what feels like a relatively rote cash grab type of movie. The gore scenes are few and far between, but they're well done and help make the movie as enjoyable as it is.
There is a lot not to love about the movie, however. It is pretty standard, not only not breaking any new ground but also feeling like a cheap retread of ground already covered. The scenery is beautiful but the cinematography does it no favors, and most of the movie feels like its shot in the style of a particularly brutal Lifetime flick. The score, likewise, is stereotypical, joining much of the rest of the film in being relatively blah. The finale of the film, stylized as an "epilogue" by the ever-present title cards that are used ad nauseum throughout the film, is almost entirely nonsensical and out of place. It serves solely to reiterate that Maggie Q is a badass without adding anything to the plot and being entirely dumb as hell. Nevertheless, if you're a fan of home invasion thrillers and aren't particularly discerning in your taste, Fear the Night won't let you down in being exactly what it sets out to be. Just don't expect anything that will make your Top 10 list.
Who this movie is for: Home invasion stans, Surprise gore lovers, Paint and body experts
Bottom line: Fear the Night is much better than I expected and also entirely unremarkable. It's not a home invasion thriller that will stand out amongst the best of the genre, but it's watchable and entertaining while containing more than your average gore for a lower budget film. It's decently acted, competently shot, and despite its insistence on not containing anything new or inventive, does a fine job of toeing the line of thriller and horror. Give it a shot if home invasion flicks are your bag.