Dir: Ian Kessner
Starring: Kendra Leigh Timmins, Robert Patrick, Elise Gatien
UK DVD Release – Feb 29th 2016 from Metrodome UK
Plot: Adrienne (Timmins) and her friends have decided that instead of attending a high school dance, they are going to sneak off to her family cabin for a night of teenage debauchery. When the school bus they hot-wired breaks down the group seeks refuge in an abandoned farm house that turns out to be less than abandoned. With the last member of a family of cannibals stalking the group, is it possible for them to make it out alive?
Another release from Raven Banner, the producers behind a plethora of titles such as Turbo Kid, and Wolf Cop, gives us another throwback to the 80s, Lost After Dark. This homage to 80s slasher movies is the first feature length film from writer/director Ian Kessner, and it strives to be an accurate depiction of the films that inspired it such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, and Friday the 13th. Set in 1984, Lost After Dark harks back to a time when teenagers could be brutally murdered by a silent psychopath without having to explain why they didn’t just use their smartphone to snapchat the police into saving them. It follows the trend set by Tarantino and Rodriguez in their Grindhouse double feature, and Ti West’s House of the Devil, penning a love letter to horror films of old.
Following the old formula of slasher films, Lost After Dark sets up it’s group of oh-so-killable teens with deception of parents and teachers alike, the Laurie Strode-esque Adrienne with her book-smarts and honour roll status highlighted as the obvious final girl. The group is the usual mish-mash of teen stereotypes, the fat stoner guy, the blonde bimbo, the athletic girl, the asshole rich kid, the football player, and the athletic black guy complete with afro (and ‘fro comb). To continue the worship of slashers past, each character is named after either a classic horror director or scream queen. To round off the cast there is Adrienne’s father, and more notably Robert Patrick as the vice-principal who’s sub-plot mission to find our delinquent group provides moments of relief from the continuous stalk and slash. Patrick’s name and Terminator 2 fame seeks to give Lost After Dark a little more legitimacy although his character is absolutely ridiculous, but I’ll get to that in a second.
Lost After Dark is mostly a serious in tone homage to the 80s slasher classics, however that tone is tested a few times, specifically by Robert Patrick’s vice-principal character and the blonde bimbo character, Heather. Heather is a Paris Hilton style dumb blonde who reinforces the bitchiness of her rich asshole boyfriend, Johnny. While she seems like a typical mean girl at the start she generates most of the laughs from this film, especially when dealing with the dog she bafflingly pulls out her handbag. As for Patrick’s character, he is a by-the-rules vice-principal who wants to see these teenager tow the line, but he is also a Vietnam veteran. His veteran status is handled through extremely awkward dialogue that will not let you forget he was in a war. Examples of this including him asking where the cabin is by asking “What are their coordinates?” and later screaming “I was in the ‘Nam!” Between these two characters it makes you question if this film is supposed to be a very subtle parody.
As an homage Lost After Dark recreates the style, both visually and through it’s writing, considerably well. It also takes the Grindhouse route by mixing in scratches and distortion to make it feel like an old print of the film. There is a problem with their use of that style, Kessner seems to only use it half hearted. It got to the point where I thought they had just given up on it, until they used it to obscure part of the plot so they could use it as a twist later on. While that’s slightly clever it also feels intentional, like the “intact” film would have been worse for not cutting the “lost” scene in the first place.
Overall Lost After Dark is a fun love letter to slasher cinema. However by mimicking the films it loves so much it limits itself. Lost After Dark tries so hard to be those films that it can only be as good as those films. It risks nothing. If it had tried to make something a little more original it could be something greater than what inspired it. Instead it can only be judged based on the merits of what it is trying to recreate. It succeeds in showing us what was great about those films but makes you wish that you had just watched one of those instead.