(Written by Allison Brown)
“I Believe You” are words of insurmountable importance for any trauma victim. Gia Elliot utilizes this central tenet, support and sympathy, in her allegorical horror film, Take Back The Night. Immediately upon seeing the title, I had a feeling Take Back The Night would tackle themes of rape. I remember when my favorite artist, Justin Timberlake, dropped his song with the same title—an organization, also called Take Back The Night (one that stands with women against domestic and sexual violence) became the forefront of controversy. I believe the public felt the song was inherently sexual in nature, and detracted from the goals of the cause. With the risk of a horror movie not taking a sensitive topic seriously, I was glad to see that this film approached its weighty title with quite the opposite intention. It probably helps significantly that Take Back The Night was directed by a woman.
Despite being created with the best of intentions, the film fails to deliver to its full potential, but does provide many great notes. The acting could use improvement; it definitely took away from the greater themes which Elliot skillfully weaves. Utilizing a shadow creature demon as a physical metaphor for a sexual assault is smart writing. The scene following the rape, where Jane is photographed nude and samples are taken of dirt and bruises, is effective. It demonstrates how the police and a rape kit may be putting the victim through even further exploitative trauma than the rape itself.
I really wanted to love Take Back The Night, but the execution fell short. The initial partying scenes that imply the general public shame of rape victims that Jane was “asking for it,” through rampant drinking, drugs, and sex, were difficult to watch. This was not due to the nature of the scenes, but because they were solely bad. Jerky camera movements during the initial attack are amateurish; it was so rough that it literally triggered my motion sickness.
Thankfully, Take Back The Night vastly improved through its runtime. I have never expressly been in Jane’s shoes, but I can truly sympathize her. This is heavily influenced by the #metoo movement, particularly with later scenes of trending hashtags of other survivors who can relate to Jane’s demonic assaults. In light of current events, with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stepping down as a result of sexual assault convictions, this movie is timelier than ever. Victim blaming is at the heart, and truly portrays what the public does to sexual crime victims no matter the situation. The fact that Jane is threatened with a five year stint in jail if she fails to prove her case is absolutely horrid. I hope this is not based on factual laws. When the media in the film airs Jane’s sordid past, and every negative element of her personal life to the public, it is clearly to tear her down and discredit her truth. This demonstrates why rape victims so often fail to come forward with their stories; they are sometimes investigated like they committed the crime more than the rapist themself. Their reputations are tarnished forever just to get justice. It is a brave thing to step up, and Jane’s efforts to do just that, with no pay off, are disheartening yet honest.
Despite Take Back The Night’s rough edges, it does a lot to further the #metoo movement, and bring light to the unofficially related organization’s goals. I am sure many assault victims who have gone through the legal process would find at least a few moments of support within the film.
Take Back The Night had its world premiere this past Saturday, August 14, at Popcorn Frights in Florida.