One horror trend that never goes away is the throwback film. Writers and directors are often keen to bring back the heyday of the slasher subgenre that dominated the 1980s. One such film is Lost After Dark, from first-time director and writer Ian Kessner. What sets Lost After Dark apart from the pack is that it does more than just tries to capitalize on the typical slasher tropes that horror fans all know and love. It is a familiar story for the most part, but the film is incredibly successful at doing what it set out to do, and gives fans what they want from this type of movie.
Lost After Dark is set in 1984 in Michigan, and follows a group of eight friends as they hijack a school bus and meet up at a school dance before sneaking away to a cabin for a weekend of fun. But the school bus they steal runs out of gas on a backwoods road, and the group heads to a seemingly abandoned house to look for help. Of course, it’s not abandoned, and they soon find themselves the prey of cannibal Junior Joad, who was once thought to be an urban legend in the town.
As a love letter to 80s horror, Lost After Dark makes some not-so-subtle but still enjoyable nods to the movies from that decade. All of the characters’ names are those of well-known horror actors or directors: Adrienne, Marilyn, Jamie, Heather, Johnnie, Sean, Wes, and Tobe. Adrienne’s father’s name is Norman, and the militant high school principal, played by Robert Patrick, is Mr. Cunningham. Several other films have done this as well, but I always enjoy it because it connects to the horror fans and makes them feel like they are in on something.
One thing that did not work quite so well is the attempted grindhouse look of the movie, with the small pops and scratches that appear on the screen. It’s actually a really nice technique to see used, but it is not used consistently throughout the movie and just shows up out of nowhere for some quick scenes before going back to the digital look. It would have been best if they had just stuck with one style, because it makes one scene–where the film breaks and the title card “REEL MISSING” comes up–feel just a little out of place.
The movie makes great use of mostly practical effects mixed with some CGI to create nice, but not overly elaborate, kills. The killer uses a knife, a pickaxe, a pitchfork, and even an entire car to take out the characters in typical one-by-one fashion. There’s even a death that is literally eye-popping. What will surprise audiences the most is the order of these kills and just who gets bumped off over the course of the film. Once a certain character dies, the audience doesn’t know which way the movie is going to go, and that definitely keeps things interesting.
Catch Lost After Dark on Blu-Ray and DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment on September 1st, and have a totally bitchin’ time with this ’80s-inspired slasher.
WICKED RATING: 7/10
Director: Ian Kessner
Writer(s): Ian Kessner, Bo Ransdell
Stars: Kendra Leigh Timmins, Eve Harlow, Alexander Calvert, Robert Patrick
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Studio/ Production Co: Anchor Bay
Length: 88 minutes