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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Lost After Dark (Blu-ray)
Lost After Dark (Blu-ray)
Starz / Anchor Bay // Unrated // September 1, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $26.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted August 24, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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No smirking. No post-modern winking. No deliriously over-the-top false memories of what these sorts of movies were like back then. Lost After Dark is a forgotten slasher from the class of 1984. Just took a few decades for it to exist is all.

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Let me run down the list one more time just to be sure:

Weed
Booze
Nubile young teenagers
Stolen schoolbus
Keys to Dad's cabin in the woods

Yup, sounds like a party to me! Adrienne (Kendra Leigh Timmins) wasn't exactly sitting at the Cool Kids' Table, but that was before they got word about her dad's hopelessly remote hunting cabin. And, hey, what better opportunity to sneak out and swipe a schoolbus than the big school dance? Right under the nose of Vice-Principal C (Robert Patrick) and everything! All the archetypes you know and love have piled onboard for a weekend of drunken debauchery in the woods: the sneering prick whose parents own this town (Alexander Calvert), the girl with zero self-esteem hanging off his arm (Lanie McAuley), the edgy kinda-sorta-Goth outsider (Eve Harlow), the never-even-had-a-first-kiss virginal good girl (Timmins), her doggedly loyal bestie (Elise Gatien), the handsome jock (Justin Kelly), the tubby guy in glasses who cracks all the swing-and-a-miss jokes (Jesse Camacho), and, yeah, their token black buddy (Stephan James). Turns out they hotwired a bus whose fuel gauge is on the fritz, though. This schoolbus keels over in the absolute middle of nowhere during the dead of night, leaving them -- wait for it, wait for it -- lost after dark.

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On the upside, there is one lone semblance of civilization just down the way. It doesn't look as if anyone's lived in that decaying corpse of a house for decades on end, but whatever, maybe there's some gas there anyway. On the downside...well, look at the cover art with a cleaver or whatever dripping with blood. Junior Joad (Mark Wiebe) isn't an urban legend or some long-forgotten cautionary tale; he's a cannibal, and these hornball, booze-guzzling teenagers just rang the dinner bell.

Lost After Dark isn't just inspired by the slashers that littered theaters in the early '80s; it does its damndest to be one. I mean that in every possible sense too. The obvious temptation would be to riff on genre tropes or what a gloriously ridiculous decade the 1980s were, but Lost After Dark shrugs all that off. The movie's set in 1984, and it's got the Hypercolor palette and a too-brilliant-for-words soundtrack to match. The fashions and hairstyles are authentic without being taken to any cartoonish extreme, and it doesn't lean excessively on I Love the '80s reference humor as a crutch. Despite having to shoot digitally, writer/producer/director Ian Kessner and company still go out of their way to ensure that the movie looks like a gritty, fiercely independent 35mm production, taking some of its cues from the heavy speckling and faux-grain throughout the first half of Grindhouse. There's a 'reel missing' bit too, but it's not just played for laughs the way you might think. Also, the girls are all named after legendary scream queens, and the guys nick their names from every slasher director you could rattle off. The movie's other homages range from the more obvious touchstones, particularly The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, to the likes of Madman and even a little Zombi 2. The kills are brutal, bloody, and dementedly inspired. Even better, they're executed with practical effects whenever possible. I'm even more impressed by just how intense Junior Joad's stalking-and-slashing can get. The movie also upends genre tropes nearly as often as it embraces them, completely fucking with my expectations and making me gasp more than a couple of times.

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The cast is far more talented than the red shirts from most early '80s slashers, and they nail their tried-and-true archetypes flawlessly, rightfully playing every bit of it straight. It can still be playful and certainly has a sense of humor, but none of it ever devolves into camp. Robert Patrick gets more of a chance to gnaw on the scenery, but that's exactly what his role cries out for, so I'm not complaining. If this really had been a movie hammered out in 1984, I'd compliment the writing and dialogue as better than average. It captures that voice of the era without the strained quality that lesser homages are sometimes saddled with. There are two ways these sorts of movies usually unfold. More often than not, you'd have a gaggle of teenagers or twentysomethings who have no idea they're being hunted, and over the course of ninety minutes, they're systematically slaughtered one by one. Lost After Dark instead takes the spam-in-a-cabin approach, where everyone's all too aware that they're on the dinner menu. In order to have a cast to butcher, that means virtually all of the havoc is wrought in its final half hour and change. That'd usually make me groan and brace myself for the worst, but Lost After Dark is so nimbly paced that I wasn't too bothered by the lengthy gap between kills for such a long while there. It's eerie and atmospheric enough to hold my interest, and the remarkably charismatic cast sure doesn't hurt. I love that there's more to these characters than, say, "dumb blonde is dumb", and clearly a good bit of thought and consideration went into crafting them.

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Any gripes I have about Lost After Dark pretty much boil down to digging it so much that I would've loved to have seen more: more geysers of blood, an even meatier body count, gore that maybe isn't quite so blanketed in darkness, and ideally another couple of kills throughout that 36 minute splatter-less stretch in its first half. Junior Joad isn't an especially memorable psychopath either. If the movie really had been made all the way back in 1984, he's not the sort of maniac who'd have any chance of spawning a franchise. Still, this is my subgenre, and the only thing that could make Lost After Dark feel like any more of an '80s slasher would be if it came in one of those Wizard Video clamshell VHS cases. I'd like to think that a thirtieth anniversary release might be lavished with a little more in the way of extras, but still...! Highly Recommended.


Video
Ugh! And they call this a restoration. Lost After Dark looks like someone fished a beaten, battered 35mm print outta the back of a closet for a revival screening in some backwater theater or whatever. I mean, it's missing an entire reel.

...and, yeah, like the Planet Terror half of Grindhouse, that's entirely by design. Lost After Dark is so committed to its forgotten-slasher-from-1984 aesthetic that it would've been shot on celluloid, only "there [are] no more film labs in Canada", so it came down to digital or nothing. The light that bleeds into the edges of the frame, the messy splices, its persistent sheen of grain, and enough dust to choke a cat were all lovingly added in during post-production. If there's any way in which its digital origins still shine through, it's that Lost After Dark remains so nicely sharp and detailed even after being subjected to all that abuse. The disc's AVC encode never sputters or stutters under the weight of all that grain, and its colors can be a knockout as well. Lost After Dark is largely set in and around a ramshackle house without power in the dead of night, limiting what the palette can deliver, and that might've been tougher to swallow without all the bright, vivid, candy-colored hues early on. You can't really score a disc like this the way you normally would, but for a presentation that's meant to have been through the ringer, Lost After Dark still manages to look tremendous in high-def.


Audio
If Lost After Dark really had been making the rounds theatrically in 1984, it almost certainly would've been screened in mono. 5.1 audio wasn't exactly a thing back in those days, but this 24-bit Dolby TrueHD track doesn't go too overboard with all the channels it has at its command. The movie's dialogue is consistently clean, clear, and well-balanced. Bass response packs a wallop without ever sounding overcooked. I can't get over how eclectically '80s the soundtrack is -- recreations of everything from old school hip-hop to the New Romantic crowd to sugary teen-pop -- and it roars from every last speaker. Much like I'd expect to hear out of a mono-to-5.1 remix, the surrounds are pretty much entirely reserved for music and atmospherics. If there were any other standout effects attacking from behind -- aside from a few cracks of gunfire peppering a flashback late in the movie -- I somehow missed 'em. Unlike the deliberately grimy visuals, the audio is sparklingly clean, with no hiss, pops, clicks, dropouts, or background noise tossed into the fray.

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Also included are subtitles in English (SDH) and Spanish.


Extras
Nothing.


The Final Word
Oh, Lost After Dark: you had me at "blood-spattered valentine to early '80s slasher flicks". Highly Recommended.
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