The new rural horror film “The Long Night” is a prime example of a movie that’s working from a good idea but that lacks the substance (and at times the budget) to see that idea through. It’s a bit of a mishmash of several horror sub-genres which is intriguing in itself. But there just isn’t enough story to even fill the film’s 90-plus minute running time.
Directed by Rich Ragsdale and penned by Robert Sheppe and Mark Young, “The Long Night” focuses on a woman named Grace (Scout Taylor-Compton) and her search for her parents who she’s never known. We learn that she grew up in a foster home and has spent the last ten years looking for clues about her family and their Southern roots. Most have led to nothing but dead-ends.
While in her New York City apartment, which she shares with her Ivy League boyfriend Jack (Nolan Gerard Funk), Grace gets a call from a man named Frank who has been doing research for her in an unidentified Southern state. He tells her he’s found a compelling lead about her parents and she needs to come to his farmhouse ASAP. He gives her the old “If I’m not there, let yourself in. The key is under the flower pot.” There’s your first red light.
As they pack, Jack suggests a detour to the Hamptons where he can finally introduce Grace to his parents. She is immediately overjoyed but also a bit anxious. “Don’t worry”, Jack assures her, “everything is going to be fine.“ Talk about famous last words in a horror movie. And there you have red light #2.
Cut to the opening credits were Grace and Jack are driving down a remote country highway. Things clearly didn’t go well with Jack’s parents which has left Grace with a sour taste in her mouth. Soon the couple arrives at Frank’s rustic two-story farmhouse as ominous and foreboding music (that doesn’t really match the beautiful rural scenery) wails in the background. That aggressively creepy music – red light #3.
As you probably guessed, Frank isn’t home but the key is right where he said it would be. The two settle in and check out the house. Grace finds the old-timey style charming while Jack’s jerkiness and upper-crust condescension kicks in. But then there are the signs that something’s not right – the off-putting smell in the bedroom, a snake in the kitchen, and the weird totem in the nearby woods. “It’s a southern thing,” Grace explains. Ummm, is it really?
Of course there is something ‘not right’, namely the black-robed demon-worshiping cultists in cattle skull masks who appear after dark and surround the home. What follows is a lot of screaming, lots of fog, lots of running around in the house, lots of running through the woods, lots of hazy hallucinations, lots of spiraling camera tricks. Even Jeff Fahey pops up out of the blue.
Unfortunately what we don’t get is much in terms of story. The movie struggles to fill the space between its catchy setup and the eventual reveal. Ragsdale incorporates a rather pointless chapter structure to break things up a bit, and Taylor-Compton gives it her all. But neither can compensate for the lack of emotional and dramatic heft during the film’s middle patch. And neither the spooky backwoods tropes or the deranged death cult can muster the kind of tension this movie desperately needs. “The Long Night” is out now in select theaters and on VOD.