The Long Night
by Brandon Thomas
Writer/director Rich Ragsdale clearly has a fondness for horror. His feature, The Long Night, is chock full of the genre’s greatest hits: a couple alone in a farmhouse, robed assailants, ample gore and moody music. What The Long Night may lack in originality, it more than makes up for in execution.
Grace (Scout Taylor-Compton of Rob Zombie’s Halloween & Halloween 2) and her boyfriend, Jack (Nolan Gerard Funk of The Flight Attendant), travel to the deep south to try and unravel the mystery of Grace’s parents. Grace never knew them and a man she’s made contact with claims to have answers.
Once Grace and Jack arrive at the isolated farmhouse, they find themselves under siege by a sadistic cult and its maniacal leader (Deborah Unger of The Game and Cronenberg’s Crash).
A story like the one in The Long Night could’ve gone tongue-in-cheek and still delivered something mildly entertaining. However, Ragsdale has something a little more classy on his mind, and the result is a film much more methodical and patient. There’s no real rush to overdue the slow reveal around the film’s core mystery. Ragsdale and co-writer Mark Young twist every little bit of tension out of Grace and Jack’s experience throughout the night.
The film’s visual approach is just as patient and measured. Ragsdale keeps his camera locked down – rarely going handheld, even during the film’s more chaotic scenes. The stillness of the cinematography only adds to the unease.
The haunting score by Sherri Chung is a standout in an already aesthetically pleasing film. Chung delivers a gothic score that is modern yet wouldn’t feel entirely out of place in a classic Hammer film.
Next to the fan-fiction level scripts, Rob Zombie’s Halloween movies also get routinely beat up in the acting department. One of the few actors to make it out of those films relatively unscathed was Scout Taylor-Compton. Now well over a decade removed from Zombie’s Halloween 2, Taylor-Compton gives a grounded portrayal as Grace. This isn’t a character with a ton of nuance, but Taylor-Compton instills her with a sense of relatability. She’s “Every Girl U.S.A.” without the overall blandness.
Character actor royalty Jeff Fahey shows up for a criminally short part halfway through the film. Fahey’s genre bonafides are strong with Grindhouse, Machete, TV’s Lost and the underrated Psycho III. Fahey’s role doesn’t add much to the film other than a fun bit of “Hey, it’s that guy!” from the audience, but any Fahey is good Fahey in my book.
The Long Night isn’t likely to end up on any “Best Of” lists at the end of the year. It is, however, a fun way to spend a Friday night.