Fear the Night goes through the motions of Home Invasion Horror
Posted On July 24, 2023
Bachelorette Parties have recently emerged as the locale du jour in the horror genre. An adult twist on the slumber party, this girl’s night or weekend away provides a fun way for filmmakers to group and isolate female characters at an interesting location, setting the stage for a terrifying attack. Collections of randy young women decked out in penis paraphernalia and engaging in debaucherous revelry allow filmmakers to capture the T&A of 80s horror while giving audiences a large number of potential victims and at least one promising final girl. At least that’s supposed to be how it works. Neil LaBute’s new film Fear the Night is a home invasion narrative set against the backdrop of an elaborate bachelorette party. However, a lifeless script and poorly realized characters keep this gathering from ever becoming a rager. Though competently made and sufficiently bloody, Fear the Night is a home invasion horror movie as generic as its title.
Tess (Maggie Q) is a tough-as-nails veteran struggling to stay sober after returning from war. Along with her sister Beth (Kat Foster), she throws a bachelorette party for their younger sister Rose (Highdee Kuan) at their family’s remote estate. The weekend gets off to a tense start as the troubled Tess butts heads with Beth and her childhood friends. Tensions rise to a boiling point when she investigates the nearby lodgings of the property’s new caretakers. The women soon find themselves under siege from masked attackers who terrorize them with bows and arrows in search of something valuable hidden within the house.
Fear the Night features an impressive cast of assertive and adventurous women. Unfortunately, we learn very little about any of these friends other than the fact that none of them particularly like Tess. The standoffish combat vet reveals that she was medevaced from Fallujah but little else about her recovery from substance abuse or why she’s constantly arguing with her sister. As the sassy Beth, Foster proves to be the film’s most engaging protagonist, doing the most with what little characterization she’s given. With no context for their quarrels, she comes across as particularly cruel especially when she suggests Tess would be more fun if she were still drinking. But at least she has a personality. Just about every other character in the film is entirely forgettable. It’s difficult to remember their names and were it not for their diverse styling, we would likely lose track of who’s who. Travis Hammer is fine as the masked attacker, though his performance is hampered by a nonexistent motive. His henchmen are similarly unremarkable and new faces seem to appear out of nowhere. KeiLyn Durrel Jones is a brief bright spot as a chef/stripper though he’s only around for a few minutes.
If the characters are lacking in personality, the film’s plot faces equal shortcomings. Characters are essentially thrown away once they die including the supposedly beloved sister of the two stars and guest of honor at the doomed party. Other characters run off into the night and seem to completely escape the massacre. They reappear in the film’s baffling denouement in which the small town’s sheriff flatly refuses to believe women could be capable of defending themselves. In addition to a flimsy counterattack, we never get a satisfactory answer to who or why these intruders care about the girls or their home. Attempts to explain the killer’s identities and motivations feel forced and the film’s entire plot boils down to “wrong place at the wrong time.” While this is likely the way a real home invasion would play out, it proves to be intensely unsatisfying as a horror narrative.
The film also has a stilted quality to it and the chemistry between the leads never really clicks into place. These flat characters could be forgiven with a killer plot or interesting banter. Unfortunately Fear the Night feels like a lesser approximation of previous horror hits with little to set it apart from other home invasion horror. Were the killers to wear animal masks, it would essentially be a variation of the mumblegore hit You’re Next right down to the arrows and a blond attempting to outrun the enemy. The film ultimately feels like a paint by the numbers horror story with a halfhearted attempt to add distinguishing details. The seeds of a fun and exciting film are here, but this half-baked horror movie needs a little more time in the oven.
Jenn Adams is a writer, podcaster, and film critic from Nashville, TN. Find her social media nonsense @jennferatu.