Producers: Matthew Helderman, Luke Taylor and Robert Dean Director: Robert Dean Screenplay: Robert Dean Cast: Jake Etheridge, Matthew Lawrence, Colby Crain, Leah Bezozo, Kyle Overstreet, Darius Homayoun, Charlotte McKee and Lance Henrikson Distributor: Shout! Studios
The undistinguished title suits this undistinguished horror movie, but while “The Dead of Night” is essentially mediocre, it tells a familiar story in reasonably effective fashion.
Set in the contemporary West and shot around Capitan, New Mexico, Robert Dean’s movie is built around an assault on locals by a bunch of killers wearing wolf masks. Their motive seems to be sheer malevolence as they slaughter first an elderly pickup truck driver along the road and then a couple that’s repaired to a remote trailer for a tryst.
Matters get more focused as the script hones in on the dysfunctional brother-and-sister team of Tommy (Jake Etheridge) and June (Colby Crain). He’s a scruffy but likable guy, while she’s still being pursued by Luke (Matthew Lawrence), a stern-faced deputy who isn’t above using his authority to accost her. When Tommy comes upon the wolf-men killing an old man in his home, he barely escapes himself, and they follow. They also target June and the folks she’s staying the night with.
The bodies pile up as the movie goes on, but by modern standards the level of graphic gore is small. The script does offer a surprise twist at the close, but the ambiguity it creates will annoy more viewers than it pleases, and the sequel-teasing coda is just a sop to genre expectations.
The quality of acting on display is, as usual of this sort of thing, highly variable, but Etheridge underplays Tommy nicely, and fans of horror movies will appreciate the presence of veteran Lance Henrikson, even if as Earl, a diner owner, he gets very little to do. The technical side is fairly rudimentary, but Troy Scoughton, Jr.’s cinematography, Kendra Tuthill’s production design and Justin Williams’ editing are adequate, Alexander Taylor’s score drones on cue, and Katie Wellman’s costumes include some nice cowboy hats.
“The Dead of Night” shouldn’t be confused with the 1945 British classic “Dead of Night” (without the article), or with last year’s creepy independent sci-fi flick “The Vast of Night,” both of which are superior. But if you’re in the mood for a mostly formulaic take on the masked-killers genre, this one shouldn’t seriously disappoint.