I appreciate the need for filmmakers to evoke the eighties building slasher movies within the confines of the decade, but often time movies can get so lost in paying homage to the culture, it doesn’t focus enough on entertaining. “Lost After Dark” falls victim to this gimmick where we have a movie set in the eighties and based around the eighties aesthetic, and yet fails to re-invent the wheel as a slasher film. While we’re at it, the whole grindhouse flourishes feel woefully superfluous to the film, and never adds anything. That said, “Lost After Dark” isn’t a bad movie, it just never manages to be anything but mediocre.
Set in the mid-eighties, we meet Adrienne, a young girl preparing to go away with her friends on a weekend trip after her big prom. Despite her dad’s best intentions to look out for her, she steals his keys to his cabin and schemes to go away with her friends and a football player she has a crush on. Managing to sneak off from their militant vice principal (a memorable Robert Patrick), they head out on the road and are accidentally stranded. Little do they know they’re parked a few miles away from the house of a mythical clan of cannibals known as the Joads. Soon enough everyone is running for their lives from a savage maniac who delights in sadistic murders. “Lost After Dark” comes in to the ring with the best intent to deliver a horror movie that makes us feel like we’re watching a lost eighties gem.
It just doesn’t know how to do anything but offer the obvious slasher fodder we’ve seen over and over. Injecting eighties slang, and a mock eighties score doesn’t automatically mean the movie will rise above mediocre. It focuses well on interesting and flawed characters and even foreshadows some future scenes quite well. Director Ian Kessner has nuggets of a great horror film in “Lost After Dark” that present itself every now and then, it just gets lost in the paper thin storyline and boring villain. Truth be told, I like how Kessner eliminates our expectations by offing characters we least expect to die, and he does put Robert Patrick to good use. What could have been a glorified cameo turns in to a fun walk on role. And for all intents and purposes, the performances from the entire cast are solid. It just all gets lost in what is a pretty bland and unspectacular slasher film. And that comes from someone who is very forgiving when it comes to a good slasher flick.
I was never sure what the heck the film jumps and missing reel moment were supposed to indicate if anything. Is this a grindhouse throwback or an eighties throwback? “Lost After Dark” doesn’t accomplish either trick very well and feel like fancy window dressing to cover up what is a pretty average and sub-par horror film. Speaking of jumping back and forth thematically, Ian Kessner’s film can also never decide to be a self aware meta-slasher, or a slasher that fully embraces its clichés. Sometimes it dodges the pitfalls of every movie we’ve seen before it, and then other times it drops us right in to them without much entertainment value to take away from the whole experience. Ian Kessner and Bo Ransdell seem to have a love for the sub-genre. It just sadly never develops in to a really good horror film. I hope we see more of them in the future, because they at least have potential to deliver a great horror film.