The Long Night (2022) Makes for Concise and Competent Cult Horror
Title: The Long Night
First Non-Festival Release: February 4, 2022 (Limited Theatrical Release)
Director: Rich Ragsdale
Writer: Mark Young, Robert Sheppe
Runtime: 91 Minutes
Starring: Scout Taylor-Compton, Nolan Gerard Funk, Jeff Fahey
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Grace (Scout Taylor-Compton) and Jack (Nolan Gerard Funk) drive down south to find answers about Grace’s birth parents. Before they head out, they make a quick stop to visit Jack’s family, as Jack wants to introduce them to Grace. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go well, and the couple stonewall each other the entire way there. Their issues amplify when they get to the address of Grace’s contact, who is nowhere to be found. They decide to enter anyway, as they were given permission ahead of time in the event something happened, and find themselves waiting for hours for this mystery man to show up with the information Grace wants. She’ll soon learn the true nature of her visit.
The Long Night is a familiar tale of cults, backwoods horror, and familial trauma but it remains a noticeably tense and enjoyable one.
There isn’t much to the storyline in The Long Night but that doesn’t stop it from being a serviceable and fun film. Its first third focuses on the problems broiling in Grace and Jack’s relationship. Clearly, the class divide between the two is steep based on the descriptions of each other’s family homes, but they both carry the weight of their family’s dysfunctions. Despite their recent arguments, they do their best to lean on each other and fight to survive the terrible night together.
Much of the film rides on the performances of its two leads, as they soak up nearly all of the screentime. Scout Taylor-Compton’s portrayal of Grace works well even if there are moments that betray the character. Most noticeably a fit of panic overcoming her towards the end of the titular long night, comes off as more goofy than terrifying. Nolan Gerard Funk complements Taylor-Compton well enough. His slick bravado with determination and care underneath gives depth to what could have been a simply callous yet rich boyfriend character. From the beginning, it looks like he’ll be an easy character to root against, only for him to surprise the audience in the best of ways.
While it is enjoyable, there are still several areas where The Long Night falters. By the time it reaches its forgone conclusion, all the mystery and terror is sucked up in the room thanks to a kooky villain monologue. Some explanation is necessary of course, but in the last twenty minutes or so, it all feels so wooden. The chase and fight sequences are brief and unexciting. There isn’t much to them which makes it difficult to maintain the sense of dread established in the creepier previous acts of the film.
For all its focus on familial trauma, The Long Night doesn’t end up saying much about its deeper motivations. The answers to Grace’s questions are revealed, but the narrative lacks the intelligence to pull off the connection. Grace is never granted any sort of catharsis on these revelations, and it takes a backseat to the more horror oriented plot points. Of course, not every horror film has to break down social conventions in any type of manner. Unfortunately, when its central plot relies so much on the real-life horrors of adoption and the pulsating sadness that accompanies longing for your birth parents, The Long Night chooses to gloss over what could make the material more interesting.
Nothing new is found in this demonic cult thriller, but The Long Night still manages to scare up a few good moments. Relying on its frightening imagery and stripped-down premise, The Long Night manages to provide enough hallucinatory sequences and iconic costuming to keep the attention of the laxest viewers. Scout Taylor-Compton leads the cast in a solid performance that still stretches her acting chops with the familiar material she is given. At the end of the day, The Long Night doesn’t feel like the interminable outing its title suggests, and that is victory enough for this familial horror flick.
Overall Score? 6/10