The Long Night is one of the biggest surprises of the year so far. Making a film is no easy feat, but cheap horror seems to be a dime a dozen. Finding actual good horror is sometimes like searching for a needle in a haystack in our streaming generation. This may not be a life-changing experience, but if the cult-flavored wheel ain’t broken, don’t try to fix it either. Split up into 7 chapters, The Long Night is pure propulsive horror, punctuated by an atmospheric score from composer Sherri Chung.
Grace (Scout Taylor-Compton) jumped from foster home to foster home as a child, and never knew anything about her real parents. Her supportive boyfriend, Jack (Nolan Gerard Funk) has been helping her search. Finally, it seems like Grace could get the answers she seeks—the mysterious Mr. Caldwell invites Grace and Jack to his plantation home, with news about the research he has done into her family. After the title erupts onscreen, it does not take long for The Long Night to embrace its Wrong Turn and Texas Chainsaw Massacre inspirations.
After a creepy gas station stop in between the couple’s detour for Grace to finally meet the parents, Grace and Jack drive deep into the countryside. When they arrive at the idyllic secluded property, Mr. Caldwell is nowhere to be found. Grace snoops around for a key, as he had told her over the phone to let herself in. Jack immediately observes that the place looks “furnished by Norman Bates.” All seems to appear innocent enough, with only one or two red flags. A lingering smell of death, a snake in the kitchen, and blood-smeared totems in the woods provoke an ominous mood.
The situation grows stranger by the minute, and the only reason they stick things out so long is due to Grace’s need for answers about her family. The Long Night refuses to be the generic type of people-making-dumb-choices movie we have seen time and time again. Soon, a bizarre incident with the bathroom door locking in Jack after a shower, whilst Grace is jarringly confronted on the bed by a horn-masked fiend, act as catalyst. Jack is convinced they have to leave. Missing cell phones and car trouble could spell doom for the couple. The strange house is surrounded by cult members from all sides. It would seem Jack and Grace are truly trapped, but can they both make it out alive?
Similar to how difficult horror in general is to nail just right, the subgenre of cult horror is even more challenging. 2021’s Wrong Turn remake is an example of cult fare done wrong. The Long Night manages to build up a solid amount of lore in a relatively short period of time, and is one of the better cult films of recent years. Splitting up the movie into chapters does indeed make it feel longer, if only slightly. However, it never feels tedious. I was fully invested in the journey of Jack and Grace after awhile. Their relationship is weirdly charming; while not perfect by any means, Jack does seem to always have Grace’s best interests at heart, and will work fearlessly to ensure her protection. They begin the movie on shaky ground, yet have a clear, concise connection.
Nobody screams like Scout Taylor-Compton. During her tenure as Laurie Strode in Rob Zombie’s iteration of Halloween, Scout proved herself time and again, and has since found her niche in low-budget, high-concept horror. Scout’s piercing scream is one of the things I was most looking forward to—her scream still absolutely slays! On the flipside, Nolan Gerard Funk (Dead Girl, Truth or Dare, House at the End of the Street) makes for a lovable boyfriend. Their relationship is a true strength of the script.
The tense score and atmosphere majorly elevate The Long Night. Visuals that include snakes slithering out of a pregnant, sliced-open belly, made me uneasy. My heart was racing, particularly as The Long Night barrels into a wild final stretch. Veteran actor Jeff Fahey even pops in for a fun little role, and witty banter with Nolan Gerard Funk’s Jack. Originality is not necessary when the creative team is clearly having this good a time.
The Long Night skins a cat for sacrifice when it premieres in select theaters and Video On Demand on Friday, February 4th.