Starring: Noell Coet, Ian Bamberg, Adam C. Edwards, Stephanie Erb, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Erica Leerhsen, Charlie O’Connell, and Ally Walker
Directed by: Richard Schenkman
Written by: Jesse Baget (story), Eric D. Wilkinson (story), and Richard Schenkman (screenplay)
Running time: 87 minutes
Rated: Not rated (contains adult language, adult situations, graphic violence)
Mischief night is celebrated on October 30th in very small areas of the East Coast, primarily New Jersey and certain parts of Michigan. It has also been practiced in the UK and parts of Europe. On Mischief night, youngsters participate in pranks and minor vandalism including soaping windows, egging houses, toilet papering trees, play ditch ‘em doorbell, and other mostly harmless mischief as a pre-cursor to Halloween the next day. In director Richard Schenkman’s Mischief Night, the holiday takes on a far deadlier significance.
Emily (Noell Coet) is a teenager who suffers from blindness ever since a horrific car accident that took her mother’s life when she was a child. Emily has adapted remarkably well to her blindness in the nine years since her car accident, but she still sees a psychiatrist regularly, played by Ally Walker (Profiler, Universal Soldier) because she blames herself for her mother’s death. She and her father, played by Daniel Hugh Kelly (Cujo) have recently moved into a huge new house in a seemingly secluded neighborhood.
On the night before Halloween, her father is heading out on his first date since his wife died, leaving Emily home alone for the evening. Her plans for a quiet evening are shattered when a mysterious intruder stalks and terrorizes her, not yet familiar with her new surroundings, she must use her heightened senses to protect herself and her family in order to survive Mischief Night.
Mischief Night is another film in the ever growing home invasion horror sub-genre that’s becoming so popular these days. The premise is beginning to feel tired and worn out, and the story is not as clever as the filmmakers would like it to be. A blind girl being terrorized by a killer is nothing new; it was done to much better effect in 1967’s superior thriller, Wait Until Dark. Although the story is nothing new, I have to give the writers a little bit of credit for trying to think outside the box. Ultimately though, it just doesn’t work, the film has a problem with believability.
The biggest problem I had, and it was a film killer for me, is the reason for motivation or lack thereof for the intruder. There is absolutely no rhyme or reason as to why the intruder is stalking and terrorizing this young blind girl, it doesn’t make sense. Are we supposed to just believe the intruder picked this girl and this house to randomly attack without anything to tie them together? I can use suspension of disbelief for a lot of films, but there has to be at least the tiniest of reasons to do so. At one point, the story was leading to what I thought was the reason for the attack, but that plot device turned out to be a dead end, leaving me again wondering what the motivation for this was all about. There is a scene where the intruder is asked why he was doing all this, and he says…”It’s Mischief night.” I’m sorry, but I need more than that for the story to make sense.
I may be too picky here, but there is another scene that really bothered me. A scene where Emily leaves her house and is fleeing across a huge open field while being pursued by the intruder, she stumbles and trips over a body in the middle of the field that allows for a shameless tension builder as her stalker nearly catches up to her. OK, it’s a large open field and Emily could’ve ran in any number of directions, she just happens to run in a line that puts her directly in the path of a dead body to trip over, c’mon.
On the plus side, the film is shot and directed beautifully. It looks absolutely gorgeous. The director makes wonderful use of the house and the shadows that lurk in all the nooks and crannies are used to great effect. There are also a couple of good gore set-pieces that stand out in the film that I wasn’t expecting.
The acting is great across the board. Both Noell Coet as Emily and Daniel Hugh Kelly as her father turn in wonderful performances, but it’s Coet that really stands out. Her performance as a blind teenager trying to use her heightened senses of smell and hearing to escape from the intruder was remarkable for a young actor.
I really wanted to like Mischief Night, it looks so good and is such a competently shot film, the filmmakers were really trying to create a story they thought would work, but for me, it didn’t. Ultimately, I couldn’t get past the story’s shortcomings enough to wholeheartedly recommend this film, I can only mildly recommend it.
2 ½ out of 5 Pentagrams!
Watch the trailer for Mischief Night here: