Young adult Samantha (Samantha Acampora) waits on a park bench one bright afternoon, stern-looking driver Ambrose (Bruce Church) pulling up and glaring at her: the look her gives is her apparent instruction to get into his car.
A lengthy drive ensues, taking them into evening and torrential rain as they reach their destination - a remote, lavish retreat known as the DeWolfe Gentleman's Club. Upon entering its grand lobby area, Samantha is a little taken aback by what she observes. Several older professional men are dotted around the place, each one flanked by at least one, semi-naked younger man.
Before having time to truly take in these sights, Samantha is ushered up a spiral staircase by the mysterious Ms Olivia (Victoria Paradis, who ironically resembles a sexually frustrated Olivia Colman) and into the waiting office of the bordello's madame, Blanche (Lee Rush). We learn from their subsequent conversation that Samantha's parents recently died and, due to their house being sold off to pay debts, she has been sent to live with her estranged aunt Blanche. The fact that she runs her house as a fuck palace for horny older businessmen is something she was not aware of.
Blanche explains that she's happy to provide a roof over Samantha's head and food, but if she wants an allowance she has to help with the "tidying up". Samantha agrees, perhaps not fully appreciating the implications of this requirement. The one stipulation Blanche spells out is that she and Ms Olivia both live in the house in their own bedrooms, and these are strictly out of bounds.
When Ms Olivia takes Samantha to her bedroom, she barely notices the glimpses into other rooms along the way which reveal clients cuffed naked or nursing bloodied noses. Perhaps she's distracted by the fact that her room is fucking huge, and very nice indeed. Aside from the gay literature left on the side, which she clearly doesn't appreciate one bit (her unease around the building's occupants made me think that perhaps her Deep South drawl is intended as comment on their notoriously conservative views?).
Wasting no time at all, Samantha sets about her duties cleaning the house. Coming to a certain bedroom, she tries several keys in a bid to unlock its door but to no avail. Ambrose appears behind her and friendly informs her that no-one other than Blanche, Ms Olivia and he can go in that room. He tells her what lies behind that door is "no concern" of hers. So, off to bed she goes.
During the night Samantha is awoken by a ruckus in a nearby bedroom. She's told by Ms Olivia that it's none of her business, and to stay in her room, The following morning, while cleaning, she finds a blood-soaked garment in a bin. Alarm bells start to ring.
It doesn't help that she's accosted later that day by sweaty punter Clayton (Terry Shea), who bumps into her on the way to a room for one of his regular trysts with trick LaRue (Roberto Alexander) and decides he wants to involve her in a threesome. Not to worry: she flees from his advances and, unbeknownst to her, a hooded figure clubs him to death.
So, Samantha's anxieties about her new dwellings are understandably growing. They're not helped by her discovery of an unkempt cellar area which evokes imagery of shady shenanigans. At the very least, she's met two friendly faces - lovers Jamie (Ricky Irizarry) and Duke (Cardryell Truss) - who make her feel more at ease. For a time.
But Samantha's stay doesn't get any more comfortable. From her thwarted attempts to reclaim her mother's padlocked journal - now Blanche's guarded profession - to the unwanted advances of self-proclaimed "big cock" stud Wild Bill (Derek Laurendeau), she's starting to become more and more unsettled. It doesn't help matters when two cops turn up investigating a missing person case. And Samantha keeps catching snippets of disconcerting conversations here and there, leaving her with the distinct impression that something's definitely amiss.
She's not wrong. But she doesn't know the half of it ... yet. Wealthy customer Mr Wheatstraw (Jay Walker) is due to arrive, everyone's anxiously anticipating his arrival, Jamie's gone missing in the meantime and we catch a glimpse of the bordello's owners indulging in what looks like Occult practices.
The scene is set for a very dark night indeed ...
BEFORE THE NIGHT IS OVER is the latest from the tirelessly prolific Richard Griffin, an SGM favourite whose earlier works include EXHUMED, THE DISCO EXORCIST and FRANKENSTEIN'S HUNGRY DEAD. All of which are well worth checking out.
Griffin's films, while clearly shot independently and on small budgets, are always extremely accomplished affairs. Colourful, well-acted, tightly directed slices of drama invariably laced with agreeable flourishes of irreverent humour. BEFORE THE NIGHT IS OVER is perhaps the director's most technically advanced film to date, but strips back on the light relief to deliver something decidedly darker in tone. There's still a lot of wry humour evident in the script, but this feels like a more mature affair in the main.
The visual style is something to behold from the off, the opening minutes' drive to the bordello echoing Suzy's arrival at the ballet school in SUSPIRIA (with this in mind you could argue that Acampora is Suzy, Paradis is Miss Tanner and Rush is Madame Blanc[he]). The arty colour schemes of classic Argento don't stop there, the control with which each scene has been prepared, photographed and directed being a pleasure to witness.
Pacing is brisk and yet never rushed, the plot unfurling at an agreeable pelt while allowing Griffin time to really revel in that lush cinematography, finely selected location and handsome production design.
Shot on 4K cameras in an agreeably cinematic ratio of 2.35:1, the canny use of colour and ambitious camerawork prevents the sharp detail from robbing events of any filmic feel. What's really amazing is that this grand-looking affair was reportedly shot on a budget of just $5,000.00. If that's true - I believe it is - Griffin's not only a genius, he's little short of being a fucking miracle worker.
The actors are all on point, clearly enjoying breathing flesh into Griffin and co-writer Lenny Schwartz's enjoyably acerbic script. Acampora makes for a necessarily sympathetic lead, while Rush relishes in her role as a cold, stately ogre to be feared.
There's a palpable sense of tension as the plot escalates, and while the kill scenes are relatively restrained they still pack a certain level of punch. Homoerotic scenes are shot with finesse and occasional humour, unafraid to indulge in a fair quota of full-frontal male nudity. It makes for an interesting inversion of the female nudity which populated so many exploitation films of the 1970s and 1980s.
We were sent an online link to the film for review purposes. As mentioned above, the presentation is a boldly vibrant and sharp one, rich in detail and colour. Deep blacks benefit the darker scenes immensely, while the English stereo soundtrack makes good use of intelligent and occasionally unsettling sound design.
Uncut at 78 minutes and 18 seconds in length, BEFORE THE NIGHT IS OVER may well be relatively short but that's only because Griffin is a dab hand at this game by now and knows how to spin a satisfying, flab-free slice of compelling drama.
BEFORE THE NIGHT IS OVER is a hugely accomplished film, it's much more than SUSPIRIA for the gay market, it's a wry, stylish and compelling drama which builds confidently towards a satisfying finale.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Directed by Richard Griffin|