Michigan, 1977. A girl in hotpants - Laurie (Sarah Fisher) - flees from the secluded Joad farmhouse at night, chased by the demented farmer (Mark Wiebe). He catches her, and she's swiftly killed.
We then fast-forward to 1984. Colourful fashions, cheesy pop music - it's all here, as Adrienne (Kendra Leigh Timmins) packs an overnight bag in her bedroom in preparation of meeting up with several school mates for an evening of partying.
They've told their respective parents that they're attending the school dance, but in actuality Adrienne and her pals - hotties Jamie (Elise Gatien) and Heather (Lanie McAuley), along with chain-smoking moody-pants Johnny (Alexander Calvert), token black guy Wesley (Stephan James), cool sporty type Sean (Justin Kelly) and fat nerd Tobe (Jesse Camacho), and surly Goth chick Marilyn (Eve Harlow) plan to bunk off and party elsewhere.
Good girl Adrienne frets that she's only been invited along because her dad owns a hunting cabin that the rest of this cool group can party in. In a rare moment of candour, Johnny shows a softer side when he assures her she's here because he thinks she's beautiful. He's not the only one: Sean has a bit of a thing going on with her. Elsewhere, this group seems intent on listening to bad rap music, smoking weed, getting drunk and getting laid.
Stealing a school bus, they make their way into the hills in search of Adrienne's remote hunting cabin. This is a deed that doesn't go unnoticed by hardnosed school principal Frank (Robert Patrick). "Goddamn turds went AWOL," he observes, "they don't know what they're messing with".
As Frank sets about loading his gun and going in search of the kids, they suffer the misfortune of running out of gas in the hills. Lost at night, they begin to panic. Tobe and Marilyn volunteer to walk further up the road in search of a gas station. What they actually find is a farmhouse - Joad farmhouse, to be exact. They return to the group and suggest that they've found somewhere they can all stay for the night.
Upon arrival at the farmhouse, the group find it seemingly deserted. Naturally, they break in and begin to use the place as if it were their own. But, of course, they're not alone - as one couple discover during a bout of oral sex.
Sure enough, the mad farmer is still around and - just as in the urban legend that Wesley recants to the others - is a homicidal maniac with a taste for flesh. Oops.
Mayhem ensues as the farmer begins chasing the teenagers around his farm, picking them off one-by-one in increasingly gory manner. Who will survive, and what will be left of them?
LOST AFTER DARK is an unabashed homage to 1980s slasher flicks. It wears that fact openly on its sleeve. For the most part, it does this well: the setting is nicely evoked via stylish music and apt fashions, while the unfussy filmic style is also careful to stay true to the "no frills" approach of the genre classics. And you have noticed that all of the teenaged characters' names are based on horror "final girls" or directors, right?
The farmhouse location is convincingly creepy and the kids are generally likeable characters. This latter detail is something I always award extra points for, as so few contemporary horror films seem capable of providing us with protagonists worth giving a shit about.
Pleasingly, Trina Brink's FX work is all practical. Decapitation, eye-piercing, stabbings and more can be expected. It's never overtly nasty, but the film does provide its fair share of agreeable Grand Guignol-style splatter.
Bum notes include the unnecessary fake scratchiness of the visuals during the 70s prologue, and an ill-advised "REEL MISSING" moment during a tense moment about 55 minutes into proceedings. This latter incident is particularly stupid, as it (a) subscribes to the crappy "faux Grindhouse" mentality that's plagued the genre since Tarantino/Rodriguez brought the term to the mainstream, and (b) totally draws the viewer out of the action.
Those missteps aside, LOST AFTER DARK is adeptly directed by Ian Kessner. The polished production works in its favour, and the performances are solid across the board. The coda will be predictable for fans of slasher movies, of course ... but that appears to be the point.
While enjoyable, the film is also slightly forgettable. The villain is exactly striking, and the set-piece scenes emerge as adequate as opposed to startling. Still, there's definite promise on display here.
We were sent an early test screener DVD from Metrodome for review purposes.
It presented the film uncut and in its original 1.85:1 ratio. The picture was 16x9 enhanced and was excellent: deep solid blacks, nice warm colours, sharp clean images. Eng 2.0 audio was similarly reliable from start to finish.
No menu screens or bonus features were available on the test disc, so I'm unable to comment on anything other than the (very good) film presentation.
Metrodome are releasing the film on UK DVD on February 29th 2016. It's worth noting that a blu-ray version exists in both America and Australia.
Review By Stuart Willis
|Released by Metrodome|
|see main review|