Saturday, September 12, 2015

#1,853. Lost After Dark (2014)

Directed By: Ian Kessner

Starring: Sarah Fisher, Mark Wiebe, Jesse Camacho

Tag line: "And you thought the '80s were dead ..."

Line from the film: "I don't want to be eaten by a cannonball!"

An homage to the slasher films of yesteryear, Director Ian Kessner’s Lost After Dark might not by the most convincing ‘80s throwback you’ll ever see, but when all is said and done it’s not a bad little horror movie.

It’s 1984, and a group of friends have arranged to meet up at their school’s Spring Ball. But they have no intention of staying long; hopping aboard a school bus hot-wired by Tobe (Jesse Camacho), the teens head into the woods of Michigan, where they will spend the night at a hunting cabin belonging to the family of straight-A student Adrienne (Kendra Leigh Timmins), who is hoping for some alone time with star football player Sean (Justin Kelly). 

Their road trip comes to an abrupt end, however, when the bus runs out of gas, stranding the group - which includes Adrienne’s best friend, Jamie (Elise Gatien); high-school sweethearts Johnnie (Alexander Calvert) and Heather (Lanie McAuley); ladies’ man Wesley (Stephan James); and bad girl Marilyn (Eve Harlow) - in the middle of nowhere. 

Adding to their problems is the school’s vice-principal, Mr. C (Robert Patrick, Terminator 2: Judgment Day), who saw them drive away in the stolen bus. After a brief talk with Adrienne’s father (David Lipper), Mr. C figures out exactly where the "thieves" are going, and follows them.

As for the teens, they find shelter in a seemingly abandoned house, and decide to spend the night there. But this isn’t just any old house; it’s the family home of the Joads, a clan of cannibals who were gunned down by police decades earlier. 

Unfortunately for the seven friends, Junior Joad (Mark Wiebe) survived the ordeal, and has been hiding out for years, snacking on stray hikers and vagrants who wander too close to his abode. It isn’t long before Junior starts picking the teens off one by one, but will he manage to kill them all before the remaining few fight back?

From its stereotypical characters (who make one dumb decision after another) to its insane killer, Lost After Dark definitely gives off an ‘80s vibe, which only gets stronger when the blood starts flowing (one kill in particular is a clear nod to Lucio Fulci’s Zombie). And while the film does have an artificially grainy look (complete with scratches and blemishes), Kessner thankfully kept the manufactured defects to a minimum (though he does utilize the “Missing Reel” gag, a la Grindhouse, where we supposedly miss some of the action because a reel of film was damaged beyond repair. Not only did this gimmick take me out of the movie momentarily, but from the looks of it, not a whole lot happened in that missing reel, leaving me to conclude that, if a reel was missing, the film was better off without it).

There are even occasional winks to the audience, especially with regards to ‘80s pop culture; during the bus ride, one character attempts to solve a Rubik’s cube, which, out of frustration, she eventually chucks out the window. But for the most part, Lost After Dark plays it pretty straight, resulting in some genuinely tense moments.

Those with fond recollections of the 1980’s will surely get a kick out of Lost After Dark. And while its appeal among the younger crowd might be more limited, I’d still recommend it for everyone. Yes, Lost After Dark is a throwback to a bygone era, but it also shows why so many of us still love the films of that time period.

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