Director: Travis Baker
Starring: Brooke Anne Smith, Marc Valera, Malcolm McDowell
It's not every day that you get a twisted take on a classic. When I sat down to watch this movie I never expected to see anything but another cookie-cutter slasher, just one more Halloween killer-on-the-loose film. Well technically it's the night before Halloween, not the actual holiday, so maybe that's how they got away with being different. Because different it was, an original take on a standard set up; not something you see everyday. Especially out of this genre, where more money is spent on fake heads than on quality actors, much to my continued dismay. Don't get me wrong, I love a good bloodbath, but I also love when there's enough talent behind a character to keep me from wanting to reach into the screen and throttle them. Thankfully Mischief Night was a surprisingly interesting film, one that took the old premise, mixed it up a bit, and left me pretty satisfied.
It's the night before Halloween, Mischief Night, an evening made for tricks, pranks, thrills, and danger. Teenager Kaylie is stuck babysitting, filling in for a friend who may or may not be sick. It's not that she minds overly much; the baby is behaving well, the house it full of free booze, and what else would she be doing anyway. Not talking to Graham, that's for sure, the boy who holds her heart though he doesn't even know it. Graham might be hooking up with Daphne anyway, the sick friend, so what's it to Kaylie if she's working while they're out sucking face. Other than a strange old guy going around warning people to lock their doors the night is pretty quiet, and Kaylie settles in to drink away her problems.
But here's where things start to get interesting. Kaylie notices a figure outside, a masked man who is assuredly up to no good. Phone calls to Daphne produce nothing, locking the doors isn't working, and it's almost a foregone conclusion that, whoever this guy is, he is getting in and killing whoever he wants. Seems like the classic babysitter-gets-attacked-by-a-psycho story. Not so much. Because yes he gets in, and yes he's a sociopath, but things don't go as planned. Kaylie isn't the goody goody he expected, he's not the cold blooded killer he appears, and the night's events aren't going to follow the order that you've seen a thousand times before.
I guess that's what makes Mischief Night work; it doesn't stick to the standard timeline or parade the typical events across the screen like you've seen done a thousand times. It changes what you predict will happen, and that makes it interesting. It's a fresh take on a classic story, a new & strange way to look at the genre, and that's always nice. Had it gone the opposite way I think it could have worked as well, if it had become a spoof or a homage, following the typical events down to the letter. That idea has been successful, and really I thought that's where this one was heading, so I was even more surprised when it went in a new direction. Pleasantly surprised though; apparently I was ready for a little variety in my slasher film. Well this movie delivered.
Not to say that it was incredible. I liked the plot, liked the original direction they took it, and enjoyed that it was something a little unexpected. But it was still a low budget slasher movie, it still had the fake heads, the butcher knives, the hot young things. Which, I guess could be to its credit if that's what you were looking for. They definitely kept a lot of old school ideas in play, sticking to the common themes, but adding in those new ideas that ending up being why I liked the film. But again, it still wasn't amazing. The acting was OK, Smith & Valera both doing a commendable job with what they were given, Malcolm McDowell producing a nice cameo that kinda stole the show. There was a little blood, a little sex, nothing too spectacular, nothing that horror aficionados would really be impressed by. In the end the new take on the old concept was the best part of the project, with the pieces being fairly throwaway, culminating in a movie that was enjoyable but not wonderful.
Video: With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 16x9 Widescreen the video is pretty great. The film was shot using a Red One MX camera with Red Pro Prime lenses. The picture quality is really nice, with a clear, clean image and good color balance. The majority of the movie was shot at night in a dimly lit house, so the visuals aren't amazing but at least the picture is there to support a few nice shots when called upon.
Audio: On the disc you have the choice between English 5.1 Dolby Digital and English 2.0 Dolby Digital. There are also Spanish or English SDH subtitles. The audio quality was fine, nothing spectacular, with a good sound balance. The film had a lot of personal dialogue, it was well produced, and the sound was never really an issue.
Extras: There are four trailers on the DVD: You're Next, Texas Chainsaw, the Saw series, and Children of Sorrow.
Rent It. Mischief Night was a fun, quick, watchable film that took an old concept and freshened it up a bit. The acting, direction, and budget were all still a little suspect, but at least they tried to do something different and succeeded in getting my attention. It's a movie that fans of the genre should enjoy, if only because of the twist, and perhaps despite the lack of gore & nudity. The video was really nice, the audio fine, but there weren't many extras on the disc. All in all, an enjoyable horror movie, nothing spectacular, but a refreshing take on an overused plot.