NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE
Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Co-Writer and Director, Jonathan Straiton for allowing me access to an online screener of his Horror/Sci-fi film, “Night Of Something Strange. Night Of Something Strange tells the story of five college friends who set out for the beach to celebrate Spring Break. During a pit stop at a local gas station, Carrie (played by Toni Ann Gambale) unknowingly ends up contracting a sexually transmitted disease from using the unsanitary facilities. From there, the group decide to spend the night at a motel, little do they know the virus is turning those infected into the walking dead. All hell breaks loose on the night of something strange! The film stars Trey Harrison, Rebecca Kasek, Michael Merchant (all three from, She Kills), as well as Wayne Johnson, Nicola Fiore, John Walsh, Tarrence Taylor and Kera O’Bryon. Straiton was actually a producer on the Ron Bonk production, “She Kills” which I reviewed a while back *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/she-kills-review/. This is Jonathan’s third feature that I first heard about, what feels like twelve months ago.
The stylish, retro poster art is the first thing I noticed about Night Of Something Strange all those months ago. The story was conceived by Straiton but several others including Bonk, helped write it and produce it. She Kills was an outrageous homage to exploitation films of the 70’s and although aspects of it were good, I wasn’t really the target audience for it. On the other hand, Night Of Something Strange is definitely a film that I can go in for. It’s equal parts, old school 50’s and 60’s B movie and exploitative Horror/Comedy. It pays homage to classic films like “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers” and “Night Of The Demons” but its modern additions and sexual content, comparable to something like Eli Roth’s “Cabin Fever” or Eric England’s “Contracted”. Right off the bat I was impressed with how clean and crisp the film looks, especially taking into account the infection setting. The cinematography is well-defined through really diverse shot choices, together with tight edits. The opening scene has a great tracking shot from the feet of a janitor (Wayne Johnson) as he makes his way into a morgue. It’s very reminiscent of the introduction to “Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse”. There’s another great, low angled shot when the older and cooler, Dirk (played Trey Harrison) stops at the gas station with his girlfriend Pam (Fiore). Brief shots like these are what raise the production value immensely. All the framing is exact and the inclusion of some nice aerial shots works well too. The audio levels are solid and Kirk LaSalle and Grant Rutledge do a great job of mixing the sound. Paul Amos’s music is a unique mix of bass and drum orientated score, with striking use of violin and what sounds like pipes of some sort, in order to create that other worldly feel.
Our group of five young adults consist of self-proclaimed, “bff’s” (best friends forever) Carrie (Gambale) and Christine (played by Rebecca Kasek), dude bro’s, Freddy (Michael Merchant), whose also Carrie’s boyfriend and Brooklyn (played by Taylor), the stoner of the group. Rounding it out is Jason (John Walsh), Christine’s nerdy and chubby brother (I think it was brother?). Minus a handful of weaker moments usually due to the writing, most of the performances are pretty good. Trey Harrison plays a much more likeable character here than he did in “She Kills” (that wouldn’t be hard), delivering one of the more energetic performances in the film. It took me a while to realize it was actually him, probably because the last time I saw him he was sporting preposterously long facial hair and he’s clean as a whistle here, even looking younger. Toni Ann shows her potential as an actress, with a really natural portrayal of Carrie and a willingness to adapt when things get turned on their head. Merchant and Taylor are serviceable but difficult characters to care about one way or the other. John Walsh and Nicola Fiore don’t feature a lot but they’re alright too. The funniest parts of the film often involve motel owner, Sunny (played by Al Lawler). This guy’s dryness and comedic timing are perfect and I’m very surprised to see he’s only got two credits to his name. Props also go to both, Janet Mayson as “Betty” and Wayne Johnson as, “Cornelius” for their commitment to spend all their screen time in a thick and heavy amount of makeup and prosthetics.
It should come as no surprise that the aspects I was most excited for with Night Of Something Strange, were the action and the effects. As I said earlier, things escalate pretty quickly and there’s a couple of detailed kills in the first ten or fifteen minutes to get you into it. The makeup looks quite good overall but slightly better in the first half because you can’t pick as much of the application method. The blood and gore effects only continue to get better the longer the film goes. There weren’t as many prosthetic pieces, or as much dismembering as I thought there’d be but we do get scenes with entrails, skin melting effects and an impressive set of practical tentacles (for lack of a better word). Colby Flinchum (who did effects work on She Kills) was the key makeup effects artist, he also created the all to graphic, partial body cast for an extremely gory gag during the climax of the film (pardon the pun). The horror aspect in Night Of Something Strange is a lot of fun and there’s a sufficient body count to keep fans involved.
Being an independent film, you’d anticipate that most of my issues with Night Of Something Strange would be technical ones but that’s not the case this time. There’s only a couple of minor things involving volume and some less than stellar digital effects. A blues style song plays quite loudly during the scene where Dirk first arrives outside the high school to pick Pam up. The remainder of the music is fine but that track could have just been lowered a bit in the mix. Most of the effects are practical, so I can excuse the addition of some CG blood splatter but the green screen background shots that are used when the group are in transit, look rather sub-par. Good effects normally come with more time and money and I understand there’s no easy way to shoot those scenes because it’s dangerous to have actors driving while they’re trying to act, it was just something that stood out a bit. Although most of the performances were solid, Kasek and O’Bryon were rather inconsistent. O’Bryon played “Sue”, the owner of the gas station/convenience store. You can chalk up part of her shortcomings to suggestive dialogue given for one particular scene inside the gas station. In addition, her makeup was supposed to make her look older, potentially like she was infected but she wasn’t and it was clear she was too young to play a haggard old lady. I thought Rebecca started off well, I liked the way she carried herself and the narration she performed was good. In the second half I think she coasted through some of the emotionally driven scenes and that’s where the performance fell a little flat. There’s also some unnecessary and excess profanity, some of which doesn’t seem to quite fit the mold.
A sizeable amount of the comedy missed the mark or just wasn’t that funny to begin with (at least in this reviewers mind). Like a lot of things, comedy is subjective but I think the older I get the less tolerance I have for toilet humor and asinine gags but others will dig it. There’s a few implied rape scenes in here, nothing overly confronting in terms of on-screen presentation (it’s not like this is I Spit On Your Grave) but the fact it was the outlet they used for the infected to further spread their disease, seemed kind of tasteless. At some point throughout the story, the films logic is completely abandoned, in relation to how the disease spreads. Originally I thought it was through the transferring of blood, via any orifice but a number of people come in contact with other blood in that way and they fail to become infected. I didn’t know what the rules within the film were, if there even were any. The fecal matter scene was so puerile and pointless, the constant sexual dialogue from Merchant’s, “Freddy” also gets tiresome quickly. If plenty of rank moments entertain you, then Night Of Something Strange most certainly will. There’s period blood in the toilet I could have done without seeing, Sue intrusively talking to Carrie about her period and topping it all off, a bloody tampon shown on a couple of occasions, as well as it being licked by one of the infected. The most disturbing and awkward scene involves Freddy, whose clearly having sex with a guy but pretending not to know it’s a guy. The scene is played for laughs but goes on forever, even cutting away and returning again later. Let’s just say for a second you could somehow stretch the plausibility factor, with him thinking a guys asshole could be easily confused with a girls vagina, would that even make it funny? Maybe if you’re 13 it might, now I feel like an asshole but it’s true!
Night Of Something Strange was a film I’ve waited a long time to see and with that, comes certain expectations, expectations that weren’t fully met. Jonathan has written a bat shit crazy story that’s a throwback to Sci-fi, B movies, while incorporating modern body horror into the mix as well. I absolutely love the poster art and the production value is fantastic. Quality cinematography, bright audio, well structured editing and an eclectic score from Paul Amos, make this a really professional product. Most of the casting is good and the performances well above average for an independent film. My favourite performances came from Harrison and Lawler, both played likeable characters and their comedy was right on point. The film is most entertaining when the carnage hits, doing so in the form of a number of well conceived practical blood and gore effects and a big finish. The action sequences at the end are quite memorable and gore fans definitely won’t be disappointed. On the other side of the coin, the comedy, like most, is undeniably an acquired taste. To be fair, it doesn’t say anywhere that Night Of Something Strange is a comedy, so make of it what you will. Not all the performances are consistent and I’m personally not a fan of gross out humor and sexually orientated dialogue being expelled at the rate it is here (but each to their own). The pacing lags in the middle and I thought continuity surrounding the disease, was abandoned half way through. All that said, Night Of Something Strange is a better film than the previously mentioned, “She Kills” and If you like gore and crass humor you should definitely check this one out!
My rating for “Night Of Something Strange” is 6/10