Review: 'Dead Night' Is Pure Horror Magic

ReviewsAndrew HawkinsComment

Dead Night (formerly titled Applecart) is one of the best and most fun and surprising horror films of the year. From Don Coscarelli, director Brad Baruh and screenwriter Irving Walker, this flick is a well-paced and very entertaining ride. It especially helps that Barbara Crampton is doing some of the best work of her career in this movie, and it couldn’t be more enjoyable for diehard horror fans.

I absolutely loved Dead Night and the journey it took me on. It starts off with a few hints here and there of what’s to come but unless you already know the plot and where this story goes, it’s a complete surprise and a wild ride to say the least. This is one that I’m all about sharing with fans of horror that throws the audience for a loop while also being extremely engaging and high energy.

The plot starts off after the cold open with a family trip to a secluded cabin in Oregon. We find out that they are there with a family friend in the hopes that staying in the home will be a healing experience. Then we as the audience are treated to a complete shift change as the plot and narrative structure deflects to a literal true crime TV show. Between the story of the family, what’s going on in the woods around them and what we’re being told by this mock television program, shit goes down that will excite fans of the slasher genre and especially supernatural horror movies too.

It’s hard to dig into Dead Night without revealing huge plot points, so feel free to scroll down after the movie poster for heavy spoilers. If you want to keep in the dark about the movie and go in completely cold, I highly recommend it. Great performances from the cast to include Brea Grant, AJ Bowen and Daniel Roebuck are all a big part of this movies charm, but by far Barbara Crampton steals the show. Dead Night is out in limited theaters and VOD tomorrow, and it should for sure be on everybody’s watchlist. If you can make it to a screening, do. This movie is excellent.

Out on VOD and in limited theaters 27 Jul.

Out on VOD and in limited theaters 27 Jul.

Alright, Major Spoilers Ahead:

This is a witches coven, demonic creature and ritual sacrifice movie all wrapped up into one. I absolutely loved Dead Night and recommend it to anyone who loves Demons, Evil Dead, Deathgasm and even the often ripped-on Demon Wind. This movie is a ton of fun and Barbara Crampton kills it as the ominous and extremely dangerous character Leslie Bison.

Crampton’s Bison is the latest vessel for a group of witches that have the power to impact the fate of the world. She has supernatural abilities and is next in line to become a political figure much like Sam Neil’s Damien in Omen III. The story doesn’t take this plot all the way to a doomsday scenario, but at the very end we do see a vision of what’s to come after Leslie’s rise to power.

This all sounds like very plot-heavy mixed bag stuff and it certainly can seem complex if you’re not following the film closely, but thankfully Brad Baruh and Irving Walker have crafted an excellently paced feature that never fails to stay entertaining. There’s plenty of practical effects gore to make any fan of demons and deadites happy, and the dialogue delivery from the cast is great all around.

The cast and setting here are fantastic.

The cast and setting here are fantastic.

Our main cast is a family with Brea Grant at the head who does an excellent job as an Ash-like protagonist after seeing her husband and kids transformed into monsters that must be killed. The root of this comes from a spiral, cone-shaped stone in the middle of the woods. The witches cut fleshy pods from this and break fragments off to infect and control people. The execution of all this is done exceptionally well and once it all goes down, the film flips from being a family drama turned deadly to a straight up supernatural possession film with amazing gore effects.

The back and forth jumping between the brunt of the plotline with an Unsolved Mysteries style TV show is a bit odd at first, but as things begin to develop it definitely all works very well for the movie. There’s a lot of misdirection here with us thinking maybe Brea Grant’s Casey went crazy and chopped her family up with an axe, but when the extent of what’s really going on is finally revealed, it pays off perfectly.

Barbara Crampton leads this film for sure in a fun and threatening performance that totally subverts expectations. She’s harsh, mean-spirited and hilarious, and her character has some of the absolute best dialogue in the whole film. She also has a moment where she breaks a lightbulb that is shockingly effective and intensely immersive. Honestly, Dead Night is a film that draws you in and it’s one that I have enjoyed on multiple rewatches just because it’s that good.

Without giving absolutely everything away, I will say that this film again has some of the most effective practical effects that I’ve seen in years. There is a transformation scene that is so good in this film, it ranks right up there for me as one I would stack right up against Sonny Montelli’s creature reveal in Amityville II. Everything from the Night of the Creeps style cold open to the post-credits stinger is worth sitting through here. Hands down, Dead Night is flat out great.