Director Richard Shenkman’s “Mischief Night” isn’t exactly the most original horror films ever made. It garners elements of “Ils Them” and “The Strangers” with a dash of “Scream.” And let’s face it, we’ve seen a ton of movies about blind women being tormented by someone in their house, the best of which was “Wait Until Dark.” But what the director does with the film is entertaining and often times very compelling, and that’s mostly thanks to the very powerful performance by actress Noell Coet who lends the film’s heroine strength, wit, and a fierce independence that becomes her saving grace.
Set on the night before Halloween, we meet young Emily, a girl still reeling from the horrible car crash that took her mother when she was a kid. The trauma of the death was so horrific she was stricken blind and is faced with a therapist insistent on trying to break her psychological trauma to restore her sight. Emily is anxious to be alone for the night in her new home, as her widowed father goes on his first date in years. When she prepares for a night of peace and calm, she realizes she’s being terrorized by a masked killer tormenting her and taking advantage of the lack of her sight. While the premise is simplistic, “Mischief Night” works because of its respectable sense of tension and atmosphere.
Many of the scenes will inspire audiences to clench here and there as Shenkman is able to derive a lot of cringe inducing moments based around Emily’s lack of sight. One scene in particular has her hanging over a shattered fruit bowl as she attempts to shut off a smoke detector. Coet’s performance is great considering the character could have easily been overplayed and incredibly over the top. Coet knows how to display incredible restraint and demonstrates some fine delivery in her struggle with her villain, as she tries to stay alive amidst this vicious killer. Shenkman is very clever about never turning Emily in to a victim, but also never exaggerating her ability to think on her toes. Much of what she endures is terrifying, and she’s able to gather her bearings and use what’s at her disposal to help keep the killer at bay. Though we know how Emily’s fate will play out, writer Shenkman delivers it in a way that’s logical and allows us to keep rooting for Emily.
She’s stuck in a corner and yet still manages to come out fighting, and Coet is able to make even the character’s flaws pretty damn admirable. That said, Shenkman seems to run out of ideas mid-way and begins adding a lot of unnecessary moments that felt like padding, including upping the body count, and a misdirection that was painfully predictable. Those flaws however don’t stifle what is a very strong and entertaining horror film that manages to derive really memorable turns from its small cast. Surely it won’t win awards for originality, but it takes a pretty old idea and transforms it in to a very entertaining stalk and slash horror film worth watching. I really hope we get to see more from Noell Coet in the future.
The DVD release for “Mischief Night” comes with a Behind the Scenes segment that director Shenkman asks audiences to watch after the film. It’s an interesting look at the creative process involved with the script and directing the film.