Synopsis: Eight women attend a bachelorette party at a remote farmhouse in the California hills. They are interrupted by the arrival of masked intruders who surround the place and begin shooting arrows at the home and the guests. One partygoer leads the women in making a stand against the attackers as they fight back to save themselves throughout a single dark night.
Stars: Maggie Q, Travis Hammer, Kat Foster, James Carpinello, Highdee Kuan, Ito Aghayere, Gia Crovatin
Director: Neil LaBute
Running Length: 92 minutes
TMMM Score: (5/10)
Review: Who knows where writer/director Neil LaBute would have been now had he not found his way into an ill-advised remake of The Wicker Man in 2006. That Nicolas Cage turkey was howlingly funny when it was supposed to be scary and depressingly dull at the moment its famous plot was due to become gruesomely twisted. LaBute’s talent with biting dialogue that signaled the sparring between the sexes was likely the wrong match with the folk horror remake to begin with; that he couldn’t pull it off shouldn’t have been that much of a shocker.
In the years following, LaBute tooled around in projects that didn’t restore his profile by much, but he did find some footing in 2022 with House of Darkness. That Kate Bosworth/Justin Long slow burn is an underrated, spooky good time, and I’d encourage you to check that one out some dark stormy night. You may consider that one even sooner if what I’m about to lay out for you regarding LaBute’s latest doesn’t sound that appealing. While Fear the Night is passable soggy pulp entertainment for an “in a pinch” watch, it never raises the volume loud enough to leave much of an impression.
Recovering addict and veteran Tess (Maggie Q, Divergent) is steeling herself for a bachelorette weekend to celebrate her younger sister’s upcoming wedding. Happy to be reunited with her kid sis, she’s wary about spending time with another nitpicking sibling, Beth (Kat Foster), and several of Beth’s snooty Karen-esque friends. Traveling to a remote cabin that the three sisters share as part of an inheritance, Tess hopes to make it through without any major blowouts with Beth, clenching her fists and biting her tongue when she’s constantly reminded how far she’s fallen.
A convenience store run-in with a pack of degenerate men led by Perry (Travis Hammer, From Black) doesn’t damper the women’s mood, but it does give viewers a small taste of how Tess is willing to insert herself into a potentially dangerous situation without thinking twice. Arriving at the cabin, they are joined by a few late arrivals (including Gia Crovatin’s Mia and Ito Aghayere’s Noelle) and take note of the two male caretakers down the road hired to watch the expansive property while it is not being used. The party barely begins when an arrow slices through the night air, surprising not just the guests but the audience.
This is when Fear the Night could have turned the tables on the usual home invasion thriller and gone a different route. After all, LaBute has made a thriller (2008’s Lakeview Terrace) about the safety of a dwelling being violated and the need to fight back. So, he should be familiar with the steps to achieve a consistent state of suspense and dread. Yet it’s aggravating to see how Fear the Night feels the need to do a deep dive into misogyny early on to justify the crime and punishment to come later.
If there’s one reason to see Fear the Night, it’s for Maggie Q delivering another stellar performance bound to go criminally unnoticed. An actress that impressed in minor film roles early in her career, she’s starred in a hit TV series and headlined the dud (but decent!) The Protégé in 2021. Now here comes Tess, a role that feels as if it were written for her (or with her in mind), and she nails it. I only wish the supporting cast were as strong. There are too many partygoers and indistinguishable men hunting the women down, and while it means more deaths, none of which are staged with any flash, it robs us of more time with the actors we appreciate. This could have been a four women/three men movie instead of our seven/three split.
It’s never a good sign in my book when a movie opens at the end and then flashes back. That’s a crummy parlor trick of a plot device because then all the viewer is doing is waiting for the film to get back to the “beginning.” In Fear the Night, this framework is so unnecessary that I’m surprised editor Vincent Welch didn’t push back hard on LaBute to cut it completely. Though technically savvy for a low-indie thriller, most of the movie feels like a weekend experiment LaBute put together with some friends. Aside from Maggie Q, Crovatin, and Aghayere, the acting is strictly serviceable (and in the case of Foster, hardly worth mentioning again), so the only thing to fear here is the potential time-waste.