Sunday, 13 September 2015


I've had a few reviews on hold while I've tried to plough my way through the Film4 FrightFest  movies, but now that FrightFest is over I'm going to alternate between the films that have been on my 'To Do' list and the remaining FF flicks. First up, a review that I've been sitting on for some time, Brian Troxell's slasher, One Night of Fear.
And who doesn't love a good slasher? 
There's a reason that slasher villains such as Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers are held up as horror icons.
However, for every Friday the 13th and Halloween, there are hundreds of inferior, poorly cobbled together knockoffs that fall short of hitting the lofty highs of their celebrated counterparts.
As my recent review of Suspension revealed, there are still quality movies being produced in the subgenre (albeit sporadically).
Which brings us to One Night Of Fear, the latest in the seemingly never-ending stream of slasher flicks to cross my path.
So is Troxell's movie a new The Burning? Or just another Don't Go In The Woods Alone?
Read on...


Dir: Brian Troxell 
Starring: Jessica Sonneborn, Suzi Lorraine, Jimmy Dempster, Russ Forga, Megan Sweet, Jason Sutton

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here but continue at your own risk.

Rob (Dempster) and Katie (Sonneborn) are on a camping trip and head into the Florida woodlands to meet a group of friends, including Jaclyn (Lorraine) and Brittany (Sweet).
Upon their arrival they are unable to locate the others and decide to take advantage of the seclusion — until a blood-soaked and hysterical Jaclyn arrives on the scene, closely followed by a hulking, dungaree-clad, machete-wielding killer (Sutton).
Spooked and unfamiliar with their surroundings the three plunge into the trees and search for help. Soon they stumble across a remote and sparsely decorated holiday home and aim to hole up for the night. 
As tempers fray and relationships unravel, the group are joined by likeable but bumbling park ranger Elmer (Forga). However now their merciless assailant has them trapped and he sets about toying with his prey.
What does the mysterious psycho want with them? What fate befell their friends? And are they destined to join them?

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): One Night Of Fear is an unabashed slasher flick and it knows exactly what fans of the genre want: some decent characters to root for and violent deaths for most of them.
The story (co-written by director Troxell and Johanna Troxell) is disarmingly simple, like so many of its forebears. Instead the focus is on characterisation with each of the leads given plenty of time to establish their role as the story unfolds. The writing of each character is pretty believable for the most part, and this is echoed in the performances of the main cast members. 
Dempster is a likeable and talented leading man (who bears a not inconsiderable resemblance to WWE wrestler Triple H!). He's steady, assured and has a natural charisma that I'm sure will serve him well in his future screen outings.
Sonneborn is a good-looking woman and a talented actress to boot. As the heroine of the piece she is able to show some versatility, from vulnerability to a harder edge in the tense latter scenes and during her fraught and antagonist exchanges with Lorraine.
Lorraine is clearly having a blast, playing Jaclyn as the selfish victim acting out after a trauma. She's cutting and sarcastic, all bluster and bravado to cover the terror she's experiencing. She's both unlikeable and very entertaining, so you end up rooting for her against your better judgement. Good work, Ms Lorraine.
Another character you can't help but get behind is Forga's Elmer. He adds some levity to the otherwise very dark proceedings, plus his character adds a different dynamic. He also manages to deliver some necessary exposition without the film feeling like it grinds to a screeching halt, so kudos there.
The final element of this five-piece is Sutton's menacing Killer. He's a big and intimidating guy and with his stony face, wild unkempt hair and imposing physique he offers more than enough incentive to fear what he may be capable of. His is a role that has no lines of dialogue so it's ALL about physical presence and using subtle gestures and changes in expression to convey the essence of the character. Sutton understands this and gets the job done. If there's ever a sequel to this film (Two Nights of Fear, anyone?) I hope Sutton comes back for the ride.
Now a slasher villain is only as good as his actions and the dungaree-clad antagonist has one of my favourite kills in recent years under his belt, one involving a broken-down vehicle and some well-placed body weight. It's delightfully blood-thirsty and left me beaming at the screen. The others are also quite varied, rather than a repetitive series of generic hacks and slashes. It's nice to see a little more imagination on display when we get down to the nitty gritty of what a slasher movie is all about.
The scares and kills are often the most important things to slasher fans and the talented Troxell delivers. The scenes in the abandoned cabin as the killer stalks the grounds outside, briefly glimpsed through the large, exposed glass windows, are wonderfully suspenseful, the set shot superbly to really heighten the sense of isolation for our bickering characters. Outside the dark forest and outbuildings become incredibly foreboding, dark and dangerous places filled with shadows perfect for concealing the menacing maniac stalking the leads.
The film may have only had a budget of a mere $20,000 but Troxell and his cinematographer Paul Steward ensure that it always looks great, no simple task with such modest means. Kudos, gentlemen.
Finally, while the story doesn't break new ground, the way in which it is told is very well done. The pacing is fantastic, the story moves along without ever lagging or feeling as if it rushes events. A simple, linear plot line needn't mean boring and the way in which the nicely executed set-pieces are linked together is always entertaining, combining humour and tension to ensure that the viewer always remains thoroughly engrossed.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): One Night of Fear is an old-fashioned slasher flick. Unfortunately, old-fashioned can also mean dated and the movie's biggest weakness is probably that it brings nothing new to the table. The plot can literally be wrapped up in just five words — 'killer stalks victims in cabin' — there really isn't much more to it than that.
I know that classic slasher flicks were equally as simple, but they were made more than 30 years ago. The genre has evolved (as the superb Suspension proved) but One Night of Fear simply serves up another portion of a meal we've all eaten before.
What's annoying is that there are a couple of points in the story when it seems as if the plot is all set to add an extra element that could inject something more unique and imaginative.
An example of this would be the point at which our stalkees start to discuss the reason why the Killer may be unable to enter a house that should provide very little protection. They even theorise that it may be due to supernatural means, implying that the Killer himself may be more than human. Then the conversation ends and the film goes straight back to business as usual. Huh?
Don't get me wrong, I love a throwback slasher as much as the next gorehound, but if it treads a familiar path I kind of expect it to excel in one field. One Night of Fear is pretty much by the numbers.
That one magnificent death sequence aside, even the kills aren't particularly impressive (they're quite bloodless, an obvious and unfortunate side effect of the lower budget) while the comparatively small cast means we don't get many of them either. This is perhaps the one area in which the financial constraints do become apparent.
Finally, in another throwback to old-school slasher films, we do get actors playing characters who are clearly younger than the person portraying them. I think it's safe to estimate that they're all over the age of 21, so perhaps referring to them as 'you kids' is a bit of a stretch...

THE VERDICT: It may sound like I was disappointed with One Night of Fear. I wasn't, I just felt like it didn't bring much new to the party. That's certainly not the worst thing a horror film can do, when, truthfully, it's a genre that is as reliant on tropes as any other, if not more so.
It never really stands out as a masterpiece, but it does what it does pretty well. I'm a slasher fan so I enjoyed the superb way in which it delivered its simple but effective thrills. At its worst, One Night of Fear is just kind of there, at its best it delivers some great character work and some pretty decent scare sequences. 
From the fantastic Dempster, Sonneborn and Lorraine to the assured and impressive guidance of director Troxell, this is a team that have done plenty here for me to look forward to seeing more from them. 
If you're a fan of no-thrills, old-fashioned slasher flicks, there's enough good stuff in One Night of Fear to keep you happy and entertained, so you should check it out. If not, well, this isn't going to change your mind.

For news on how you can watch the film, head over to the film's Facebook page here. Give it a Like while you're there too, these guys deserve it!

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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