Low to mid budget horror movies are thick on the ground these days. They're an easy entry into the film industry, having been used to get a foot in the door by such luminaries as Joe Dante and Sam Raimi. They tend to be mediocre at best, though there are a number of them that are inventive, crazy and enjoyable. Joe Davison's As Night Falls certainly isn't perfect, but it's fast paced, funny, and a bit disturbing, which is a good mix for horror. And it features Debbie Rochon, which hasn't hurt a film yet.
Lizzie (Deneen Melody) is a slightly tomboyish young lady who wants nothing more to do than put her little sister Holly (Lily Cardone) to bed, and relax in her isolated country home with her boyfriend Otto (Dwight Cenac, who also produced) who's just returned from a tour with his rock band. Lizzie's mother works out of town a lot, and her father recently passed away, a fact that concerns her older brother, local cop Charlie (Joe Davison, also the writer and director). Unfortunately for Lizzie, Otto's friends have scheduled a big party to welcome him back, at Lizzie's house. Also, a pair of evil ghosts attached to the property, played by Debbie Rochon and Michael Ellison, are intent on killing everyone at the house, eating their souls, etc.
As one might expect with this kind of film, it doesn't take long for the deaths to start. The ghosts here are more akin to zombies, in that they seem to have corporeal form, can heft axes and pitchforks, and inflict physical harm with lethal force against humans without too much trouble. There is the normal amount of stupid decision making, e.g. folks going out in the woods separately and in small groups to look for the mysterious little girl they've been seeing, who is the ghostly daughter of the dangerous mother and father ghosts. But there's also a lot of determination to not be cowed, to fight back, and prove Manly Wade Wellman's assertion that evil loses most of its power when forthrightly confronted.
As Night Falls could easily have fallen into the stock "beautiful people in jeopardy" box and stayed there, but it is much more interested in being an enjoyable horror romp, a task at which it largely succeeds. There's a likeable enough cast of characters at the party, mostly there to generate a hefty body count, but each given enough personality and distinctive traits to stand out, and performed well enough that we mostly believe what is going on. The ghost effects and makeup are pretty decent, and the blood and gore are exuberant and fun as well. Deneen Melody and Dwight Cenac have good chemistry, and make empathetic leads, and Lily Cardone and Joe Davison provide strong support.
There are some flaws, to be sure. There's a bit of backstory database style information dump to get us up to speed on the situation as it stands. There are a few less than exemplary performances, and the internal logic of the plot isn't exactly airtight. But As Night Falls doesn't take itself entirely seriously. These people are clearly having fun, playing things a bit overblown and a lot cheesy to get the effect they want. (The levitating battle outside of a speeding van between Otto and the evil mother is only the primary example of this tendency.) If you don't like your horror films a little on the silly side, you won't like this film. But I enjoyed it, quite a bit. Recommended.
Video is 1.78:1 and generally looks pretty good. The colors are bright and strong, the shadows are thick and silky, and the contrast is sharp. No problems stand out.
Audio is Dolby digital 2 channel, and sounds good for the most part, but isn't anything spectacular. No subtitles are included (or alternate language tracks) but the dialogue is always easily audible. No hiss or other problems can be heard.
There are a number of extras included. They are:
Behind the Scenes
More than forty five minutes of behind the scenes footage, including impromptu interviews, scene setups, makeup, pranks, and all manner of things, is included here. Joe Davison has a lot of screen time, and this is probably interesting to people who are keen to know what goes on at an independent film set. But there's a bit too much material here. This could have easily been cut in half, and provided just as much value.
Dude and Pennywise
Dude and Pennywise, played by actors Tyler Cross and Andre Reissig respectively, spend around ten minutes wandering around the set being silly and talking to people.
At 5:40, this is a music video to the film theme song As Night Falls, performed by Dirty Black Halo.
Two and a half minutes of publicity photos and behind the scenes pictures.
As Night Falls Trailer
This is a pretty decent trailer for the feature.
Breaking Glass Trailers
Trailers are included for Four Dead Girls: The Soul Taker, Jump, K-11, An American Ghost Story and Antisocial.
As Night Falls isn't a perfect movie, and doesn't aspire to be, but it is an enjoyable one. It's goofy and silly, but also gory, funny, and at times somewhat creepy. If you like your horror super serious and dark, then this probably isn't the film for you. But if you just want a cracking good time, it's one to seek out.