Archives for posts with tag: Ruthless Pictures

mischief-night-poster

Director Richard Schenkman, whose previous efforts range from Playboy documentaries to the abysmal Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, delivers a surprising winner with this tense home invasion shocker.

Mischief Night evokes immediate sympathy and concern for protagonist Emily (Noell Coet), a girl psychosomatically blinded after her mother died in a car accident. When Emily’s father (Daniel Hugh Kelly), with her encouragement, leaves her alone in the house on what happens to be her community’s annual Mischief Night – an occasion for spooky pranksterism – she finds herself at the mercy of a mysterious intruder (or is that intruders?) in a raincoat. The resulting film is a genuine tingler that raises the bar for blind girl terror, besting Wait Until Dark and Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out in terms of its sheer contagious fright.

The most frustrating aspect of Mischief Night is the muddiness of its moral universe – and, ultimately, its consequent meaninglessness. A fun but superfluous prologue that punishes two fornicators suggests that the Mischief Night killer or killers are disgruntled moralists or judgmental fire-and-brimstone vigilantes of the type represented in The Collection. Subsequent murders, however, lack this puritanical dimension, with victim selection failing to point to any unifying principle other than maximum terror. For most of the movie, the killers function as personifications or agents of a personal Hell for Emily, taking out of commission one by one the people and things that give her a sense of security – a theme that would have been strengthened if the screenwriters had excluded some of the extraneous deaths.

Flaws aside, Mischief Night is as scary as anything the viewer is likely to find at the Redbox, and is therefore happily recommended.

4.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Mischief Night is:

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

7. Class-conscious. Wealth and a comfortable home afford no protection from reality or from the moral ramifications of sin.

6. Pro-castration. Emily’s father, somewhat reminiscent of Henry Winkler in wimpy Waterboy mode, is a model sensitive man.

5. Liberal. An old man (Richard Riehle) listening to a conservative talk radio program is dispatched almost as soon as he appears. This might be interpreted as an indication that the old conservative certainties of traditional values and Constitutional republicanism are dead or no longer a feasible defense of America; but more likely is that this is simply gratuitous spite directed at Limbaugh listeners.

4. Anti-slut. An adulteress (Erica Leerhsen) is terrorized during the opening sequence. Emily’s physical closeness with and trust of her boyfriend (Ian Bamberg) is a source of discomfort for the viewer.

3. Anti-gun. Emily’s father accidentally shoots her boyfriend, believing him to be an intruder.

2. Feminist. Emily’s disability has caused her to become highly self-reliant in ordinary circumstances. She proves more valiant than her father in the defense of their home and even asserts an imaginary phallus in the form of a chainsaw.

1. Pro-family. Emily is close with her father, and her disturbance after her mother’s death, a rupture of the family unit, has left her blind and, if not helpless, then at a significant disadvantage. The father, however, is rather girly and ineffectual, thus mitigating the movie’s pro-family credentials.

Do Not Disturb, previously released in 2010 as New Terminal Hotel (the latter version, according to IMDb, is thirteen minutes longer), marks a welcome return to the horror genre for character actor Stephen Geoffreys, who, after appearing in a handful of 80s classics like Fright Night and 976-Evil, took the (to say the least) unexpected career plunge of becoming a gay porn star and spent most of the 90s plumbing the depths of that smelly cinematic demimonde.

In Do Not Disturb, he plays Don Malek, an eccentric screenwriter living in a skid row apartment and driving his agent, Ava (Tiffany Shepis), to distraction by his refusal to do any work. She is apparently less concerned by the fact that Don is also murdering people. Malek, however, is, as it turns out, no run-of-the-mill serial killer, but an unorthodox and unusually refined variety of vigilante, taking matters into his own hands where karma would seem to have failed his sense of justice.

Geoffreys retains his familiar knack for muted, quirky intensity, his youthful impishness dampened here, however, by an air of defeat and experience that suits the characterization. The most mysterious person in Do Not Disturb, though, is not Don, the killer, but rather his agent, Ava, whose feelings and motives are questionable throughout the film. Tiffany Shepis is tough and consistently interesting as Ava, managing to make the character likable in spite of her harshness and unfeminine crudity. Ezra Buzzington, meanwhile, contributes a memorably disgusting performance as Spitz, Don’s perverted, handicapped neighbor.

BC Furtney’s direction is solidly simple, allowing the film to feel like a respectful adaptation of a stage play, with scenes consisting largely of two characters talking in a room. The strong cast, fortunately, ensures that this format is successful, maintaining tension and viewer interest. Add some nudity, gore, and squirmy, unnerving synthesizer music, and what results is a pleasant-enough black comedy suitable for late-night viewing.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

4 of 5 possible stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Do Not Disturb is:

11. Xenophobic. An annoying Brit in a bar provides murder fodder.

10. Anti-state/anti-police. The world is an “Orwellian Babylon”. “Little cameras are watching us wherever we go now, aren’t they?” Police investigation annoys Don’s plans. The criminal justice system is unreliable. One of Don’s victims, a Hollywood bigwig, is said to have “killed that girl and we all know it.” “They don’t prosecute [rich, powerful] guys like Stanley.”

9. Anti-racist. Spitz makes a reference to a prostitute’s “nigger pimp”. His racism is presumably intended to add further justification to Don’s decision to murder him.

8. Anti-Christian. The Lord’s name is taken in vain. When Ava asks him, “Are you alone?”, Don asks, “In the universe?” It is apparently his disbelief in an afterlife or in divine retribution that drives him to vengeance (see also no. 5).

7. Media-critical. “Isn’t any press good press?” The detachment Ava displays when confronted with Don’s handiwork suggests a severe desensitization to violence. Is this the result of the industry in which she works?

6. Antiwar/anti-military. “Military service ain’t worth shit,” says wheelchair-bound Spitz, who complains about his medical expenses.

5. Subversive. “Join the workforce,” Don says sarcastically, to which Ava replies, “Be an upstanding citizen.” “God fearing,” Don adds (see also no. 8). A crummy end credits song, “Tables Turn”, threatens, presumably on behalf of degenerates everywhere, “We’re all gonna take you down.” Tattoos abound.

4. Drug-ambivalent. One writer is said to have a $400 daily drug habit. Another man’s predilection for cocaine leads to his death. Despite what is clearly the alcoholism of at least one character, Do Not Disturb buys wholly into the romance of the bottle and the picturesque hipness of drinking, with Geoffreys and Buzzington milking every drop of cool that they possibly can from the stage business of imbibing.

3. Feminist. “Don’t pull my dick,” says Ava, an exemplar of the mannish career woman. Men are more than once shown to behave as predators toward women and are, consequently, dispatched by Don.

2. Pro-vigilante. Don is a “strangely noble” murderer. The film evokes no sympathy for his victims.

1. Nihilist. Do Not Disturb, with its grim relativism, verges on the anti-human.

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