Take Back the Night (2022) Finds Power in Metaphorical Rebuke Against Sexual Violence
Title: Take Back the Night
First Non-Festival Release: March 4, 2022 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Gia Elliot
Writer: Gia Elliot, Emma Fitzpatrick
Runtime: 90 Minutes
Starring: Emma Fitzpatrick, Angela Gulner, Jennifer Lafleur
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Jane (Emma Fitzpatrick) is ruthlessly attacked by a monster on her way home from a party. She miraculously awakens the next day in a hospital after she somehow manages to escape her attacker. When questioned by the police, Jane is as cooperative as she can be, although she is hesitant to explain exactly what attacked her. Discontent with the speed of the investigation, Jane takes to social media to share her story. It’s not long before she is swept up in the news cycle where every part of her is analyzed by the news pundits, would-be supporters, and the investigators. As the attacks continue, Jane finds herself believed less and less.
Take Back the Night gets frustratingly close to greatness when sharing its important story but stumbles in execution.
Take Back the Night works as a worthy extended metaphor for the horrors of sexual assault.
Jane’s story begins long before she is attacked with the choices she makes in everyday life, lows she has experienced like any other person, and even with her family’s medical conditions. It is because of this that people in her life fluctuate their support of her. Jane isn’t a “perfect” victim, but as the audience we know she is telling the truth, which makes her struggle more real to us. It leads into the big question, why do we trust survivors so little when they report? Statistically, false reports for any crime are low, why are we so inclined to not give people the benefit of the doubt?
Little details about the monster strengthen the metaphor. It’s amorphous face, the smell of death, the lingering flies, everything points to the lingering and life-altering trauma associated with surviving sexual violence. The way the film frames others learning of Jane’s assault is familiar too. Some exploit her story for their careers, others doubt based on shallow or cruel assumptions, and still, some just willingly choose to believe that it didn’t happen.
As mentioned previously, Jane isn’t a perfect victim, which is what makes her story relatable. She has made mistakes in the past and own that. Her pleas to be taken seriously are undermined only by her humanity and the lack of understanding and empathy in others. Emma Fitzpatrick does fine with the material she has. Some of the secondary characters lack the same foundations but are thankfully kept in the background much of the time.
Take Back the Night has a distinct low-fi feel to it bolstered by its use of shaky cam. In a move that makes it look less professional, it opens up the film to feel more intimate. It absolutely looks to be a budgetary constraint in actuality, but it turns out to be a wonderful complement to the film’s tone and dynamic. The bleak and grimy underbelly of Los Angeles is on full display thanks to this personal approach to grounded horror and the creature effects are good for its budget too. The design itself is inspired and unique, which makes it deserve some forgiveness in terms of execution.
Uneven at times, this unyielding take on the horrors of sexual violence is held back only by the nature of its production. Some of the dialogue is poorly written and delivered even worse. Characters are given paper thin motivations and seem to sit by as the action passes them. Telegraphed scares and a few on-the-nose plot devices cause for a few eye rolls. At its worst, Take Back the Night is merely fine, which is more than enough in a streaming environment that allows for anyone to cobble a movie together.
Despite all obstacles, Take Back the Night serves up a serviceable slice of metaphorical horror. Low production values, poor acting, and an oftentimes muddled screenplay do make for a more labored watch. The commitment to the story and direction, however, make Take Back the Night a tense and often frightening example of how to elevate low budget. Its politics might be doing some of the heavy lifting for it, but in the end it’s a unique take on the horror genre and something that desperately needs to be heard today. While I struggle to call it a particularly good film, Take Back the Night deserves a watch so you can decide for yourself if you believe in it.
Overall Score? 5.5/10