Fear the Night
Neil LaBute grafts his gender wars to the home invasion subgenre to mixed results.
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Writer/director Neil LaBute began his career so promisingly with the dark workplace dramedy “In the Company of Men” back in 1997 launching not only him to stardom but leading man Aaron Eckhart as well. LaBute has subsequently done variations on this battle of sexes with starrier casts to varying degrees of success. “Your Friends & Neighbors” was a bit of a sophomore slump. “The Shape of Things” succeeded by interestingly inverting toxic masculinity into toxic femininity. His Nicolas Cage-fronted remake of “The Wicker Man” is an inadvertent hoot and a half, but falls into these parameters as well … even if on the wackiest terms.
LaBute has further expanded his gender war within genre fare in recent years with the 2022 vampire vehicle “House of Darkness.” He continues this trend with his latest offering – the female-fronted home invasion/slasher flick “Fear the Night” (now available in select theaters and on VOD).
Estranged sisters Tess (Maggie Q) and Beth (Kat Foster) are headed to their parents’ farmhouse in the California sticks to celebrate the bachelorette party of their younger sister Rose (Highdee Kuan). Tagging along are members of Beth’s “Karen Crew” including Mia (Gia Crovatin), Esther (Kirstin Leigh), Noelle (Ito Aghayere), Bridget (Brenda Meaney) and Divya (Roshni Shukla).
Tess is an Iraq War vet with substance abuse issues who really doesn’t like or get along with any of the other women save for Rose. She runs afoul of toxic male Perry (Travis Hammer) at a convenience store en route to their lodgings by emasculating him and his military service or lack thereof.
As it turns out Perry and his hillbilly homies Bart (James Carpinello, he played John Travolta’s character’s twin sons in “The Punisher”) and Tim (Laith Wallschleger, a former NCAA, NFL and AFL football player) have their sights set on robbing the farmhouse as they’ve heard there’s scads of meth and money inside. Once Perry realizes Tess is one of the home’s occupants he’s hot for a little payback, but she ain’t the one.
“Fear the Night” is an entertaining enough watch, but nothing especially special. If you’ve ever wanted to see someone get repeatedly stabbed in the penis with a potato peeler this is the flick for you! Otherwise the kills are sort of repetitious as most of them involve a bow and arrow. (Is this some sort of hot new trend between this and “The Blackening”?)
Both the victims and the villains are largely unlikable. Obviously, I don’t believe these women deserve the horrors that befall them, but I also didn’t find them to be particularly sympathetic. Q is easily the picture’s standout in both acting and action. Her Tess is the most charming character and she hates almost everyone and everything.
It’s somewhat counterintuitive, but as a fan of both LaBute’s early output and of genre films themselves I wish the filmmaker would return to his roots. His messaging seems to get lost and/or confused amid these more sensationalistic trappings. This battle of the sexes basically boils down to, “Women bad. Men worse.” LaBute can and has done better.