The Long Night, 2022.
Directed by Rich Ragsdale.
Starring Scout Taylor-Compton, Nolan Gerard Funk, Deborah Kara Unger, Jeff Fahey, Kevin Ragsdale, and King Orba.
A devoted couple’s quiet weekend takes a bizarre turn when a nightmarish cult and their maniacal leader come to fulfill an apocalyptic prophecy.
If there was ever a movie that felt like it was merely going down the checklist of death cult generic plot points, it’s The Long Night. That’s also a shame because, despite the frustratingly rote script from Robert Sheppe and Mark Young (who go so far trying to replicate the plot of Silent Hill 3, Deborah Kara Unger has been cast in a supporting role, having already appeared in one of the cinematic adaptations to those games), the direction from Rich Ragsdale is atmospheric with a sense of dread and danger. This cult has been granted supernatural abilities, which elevates urgency whenever our protagonists find themselves attempting to fight back, whether it be with their fists or a handy shotgun they find for long-range damage. There’s also nothing necessarily unique about how these zealots dress (decked in cloaks and creepy masks), but the costume design instills terror nonetheless.
You might be thinking to yourself, “gee sounds good so far; what could be the problem.” Well, the team behind The Long Night doesn’t seem to realize that what they have is already suspenseful and that there’s no need to overwhelm the viewer with obnoxious audio cues and sound design that are pleading people to be scared. It actively works against everything the filmmakers are doing right. Sometimes, the direction and cast need to be trusted above all else, so it’s frustrating that they are frequently drowned out here in an attempt to make the proceedings scarier than they already are.
The above is doubly offputting considering that the lead couple (played by Scout Taylor Compton and Nolan Gerard Funk) initially comes across as irritating and like they are in a poor man’s version of elevated horror. Grace is bringing her partner Jack along to investigate a house that the owner claims might hold clues to the identity of her parents. The location is down south, which doesn’t vibe well with Jack, a preppy and condescending jerk who assumes that if you’re from Texas, you’re an idiot redneck. This attitude clashes with Grace’s levelheaded and more accepting personality, who, in a plot point that goes nowhere, is not even accepted by her boyfriend’s parents. Since this makes up a large portion of the first act, it feels that the entire purpose of The Long Night is setting itself up to make some grand societal class statement through these unbearable characters arguing and amateurishly written and unlikable ways. When the death cult shows up, one is tempted to express happiness.
Once these characters are forced to fight back and survive, they don’t have much to debate or talk about in general, allowing the filmmaking to hunker down on mildly entertaining thrills and predictable rituals that tie into awakening an ancient demon. Again, the issue is that it’s all a tired retread of various tropes (even the production design of the house can’t help itself from paying homage to multiple horror movies as we get a nice tracking shot of the characters exploring and gathering their bearings). Despite this, the performance from Scout Taylor Compton is decent, but The Long Night has nothing new or exciting to add to this take on death cults. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid for this one.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at [email protected]