What to say about Nightfur? It's difficult to describe as a film. There isn't much in the way of plot, and the acting isn't always stellar. But it is somehow endearing. The haphazard mish-mash of philosophical musing, hard science, mysticism and budding romance manages to maintain the interest of the viewer, and bring some emotional satisfaction at the end.
The tale revolves around Dr. Roberts, a physics professor doing some independent research at his isolated home, and his two young assistants. Frank (Jeter Rhodes) is a grad student hired for the summer whose fiancée died recently, and Helen (Jana Danae) is a mysterious young woman whom Roberts found sleeping in the woods and to whom he offered a job. (The fact that she is leggy and attractive probably didn't hurt her job prospects.) Roberts has been tracking an unidentified energy source that is slowly nearing the earth, and has laid out an extensive array of equipment in the woods around his house to help watch its progress. Helen is somehow connected to the energy source, as is John Moon (Creighton Barrett), an artist and woodsman who lives in the forest.
Roberts and the two assistants live and work in close proximity, Frank in an extra bedroom upstairs in Roberts' house, and Helen is an empty house a hundred yards away. The three get to know each other more, though Helen remains shrouded in mystery, and the two men begin to obsess more than a little over her. Strange things happen. Someone keeps cutting the connections in the array, which must constantly be repaired. Late every night, Helen wanders into the woods, and has no memory of what she does there. Frank follows one night, and she appears to be glowing with an unearthly light. There are odd encounters with the locals involving zithers. Something is going on, and the producers are not particularly interested in sharing exactly what that is.
This may come off as annoying, but it really isn't. Exactly what's happening and exactly why isn't important. It's not the point of the film. What's important is the (often odd) relationship between Roberts, Frank and Helen, and how that reflects the (also odd) philosophical themes interwoven into the film. Plus, it looks pretty cool and has a great soundtrack of independent folksy rock songs. Even though the budget is obviously and painfully low, a lot of the film is shot in beautiful forests and countryside and in real locations, which contributes to a grounded look, which contrasts nicely with the surrealism of the story. The effects are generally very retro, and while clearly cheap effects are quaint and pleasing to the eye. They lack the garishness and seeming absence of care that often mar the effects of low budget films. Nightfur is like a pleasant dream, fairly undemanding but often not making much sense.
None of the main cast have acting credits on film to speak of. These are not seasoned veterans of the silver screen. But they do pretty well. There are some halting line reads, and some muted performances where it would seem that more emotion might be needed. But these are still better performances than one finds in a lot of independently produced material. The direction is confident. Writer / director Jason Brown definitely knows where he's going and what he wants to say. At times, he does not share this information with the audience, but not in an insulting way. The ambiguity is simply more interesting. The film does have flaws, the fact that one never knows, from beginning to end, just what the heck is going on is one. But it is an enjoyable, leisurely ride. This one is hovering between "rent it" and "recommended", but the benefit of the doubt is probably appropriate. Nightfur is recommended for anyone looking for a film very different from what usually screens at the multiplex.
The video is 1.78:1 widescreen, and looks pretty good. The image is bright and clear, with strong colors, though details sometimes wash out in bright light. However, this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made on the quality of the final product.
The sound is Dolby digital 2 channel, and generally sounds good with a few issues. At times, the dialogue can be a bit muffled and hard to make out, though this is rare. No subtitles or alternate audio tracks are included. However, this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made on the quality of the final product.
There are no extras included with the film. However, this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made on the quality or quantity of extras included on the final product.
Nightfur is not a typical movie, concerned with linear plot development and revealing vital information. It is more of cautious and beautiful woman, presenting only enough details to keep her paramour intrigued. This is also one of the problems with the film: the viewer never once really understands what is going on. What's the relationship between Helen and the mysterious energy source? What's the deal with the zither? What are those glowing pyramids on Dr. Roberts' lawn? But in the end, these questions don't matter. Nightfur is a philosophical reflection, an expressionist painting and a meandering walk through the woods. It's not a taught drama or an epic achievement. But it is an engaging ninety minutes of film. Check this one out, if you're in the right mood.