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Culture Crypt “Lost After Dark” Review

Countless imitators have laid claim to being a throwback 80s slasher homage with an authentic retro feel, but “Lost After Dark” is the real deal.  Letterman-jacketed good guy, leather-jacketed tough girl, stuck-up prom queen, and assorted stereotyped pals looking for a private place to party.  Urban legend about a cannibalistic serial killer haunting an isolated farmhouse.  Sure, you’ve seen movies like this before.  And that is precisely the point “Lost After Dark” intends to play with.

 

In 1984, four teenage boys (Johnnie, Wesley, Tobe, and Sean) team up with four teenage girls (Jamie, Heather, Marilyn, and Adrienne) to skip out on the school dance, hijack a school bus, and find a remote cabin in the woods to get their wild weekend on.  If you’re curious which four boys pair with which four girls, I would say think of the most well-known slasher films of the 1970s and 1980s and match each director with his Final Girl, except “Lost in the Dark” switches two of the couples for some reason.  That longer variations of certain names are used instead of the more obvious John and Wes is the first clue about how the film’s homage nods reside in plain sight without being explicitly in your face.

 

The bus breaks down of course, and the only refuge around is a dark and spooky farmhouse, abandoned since a 1977 standoff ended with police slaughtering the notorious Joad family of cannibalistic killers.  After seeing them sneak out of homecoming in hotwired high school property, vice principal Cunningham goes in hot pursuit of the troublesome teens.  But so does Junior Joad, not as dead as the town thought, and none too pleased about trespassers on his family’s farm.

 

“Lost After Dark” is just one can of Tab and a Cosby sweater short of being filled to the brim with every 80s trope conceivable.  The lone black kid sports a hair pick in his afro.  The virginal Final Girl rocks a pair of Keds.  Crimped hair, rotary phones, Rubik’s cubes, Reagan portraits: it’s all here.  Someone even says, “life’s a beach.”  Yet no matter how high the retro references pile, it somehow never feels like too much.  Credit director Ian Kessner and his co-writer Bo Ransdell with striking the right balance between horror and humor to make a movie both charming and chilling.

 

The script’s tongue teases the inside of its cheek, but the actors never open their mouths to turn at the camera and wink.  Because the cast, which is uniformly outstanding for young actors poured into familiar molds, plays the material straight, “Lost in the Dark” remains reverential to the genre while retaining only a subtle sense of humor.  That sensibility is what makes the movie fun without being silly, spoofy, or over-the-top outrageous.

 

The presentation gets in on the act, too.  Fogged film and clunky editing splices accompany reel changes.  Dirt, hair, and scratches accent a grindhouse vibe.  Yet once again, these gags last only long enough to prompt a quick snicker and a smile before overdrawing any undue “look at me!” attention.

 

As for the slasher element, the story is straightforward with intentionally predictable plot beats.  Where “Lost After Dark” is unpredictable is in how it wreaks havoc on audience expectations by getting creative with the way it whittles down its roster.  The teens are deliberately not killed in the order you think they should be, which might be a spoiler to mention, and that is how Kessner and company keep you on your toes in spite of following a specific formula.

 

Aside from a story that isn’t terribly deep, although it really isn’t supposed to be, the film’s only real drawback is an occasionally mistimed sense of pacing.  Proceedings take their time getting off the ground (which granted, the movies being mirrored had a tendency of doing themselves), but there are also some dragging lulls in between moments of mayhem that could do with improved tuning.

 

Something that isn’t off however, is the timing of the movie’s arrival.  “Lost After Dark” is a shot in the arm for slashers as well as for trendy meta-movies commenting on specific filmmaking eras.  This is retro 80s horror done right, and done respectfully.

 

Even though it isn’t a comedy, the movie requires a sense of humor for full effect and maximum appreciation.  If you’re of a certain age and of a certain mood, “Lost After Dark” is a perfect fit for any movie marathon featuring your favorite “Friday the 13th,” “Nightmare on Elm Street,” and “Halloween” in the same rotation.  Spike a pouch of Ecto Cooler with Captain Morgan’s, pop the top on a box of Bugles, and enjoy a fresh flashback to when horror was fun as well as frightening.

NOTE: There is a brief post-credits scene.

Review Score:  80

 

 

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ScreamFest 2014 Review: “Lost After Dark”
Robert Patrick co-stars in a loving homage to 1980s slasher movies that gets the formula right.

 

Lost After Dark is adorable. That may not be the comment the filmmakers of a horror movie are looking for, but it suits the tone of Lost After Dark anyway. It is a new movie shot in the style of ‘80s horror movies, but the cheesy kind, the Friday the 13th knockoffs that we love anyway.

 

Adrienne (Kendra Leigh Timmins) leads her high school friends away from a school dance to spend time alone at her cabin. She and Jamie (Elise Gatien), Marilyn (Eve Harlow) and Heather (Lanie McAuley) all hope to hook up with Sean (Justin Kelly), Johnnie (Alexander Calvert), Wesley (Stephan James) and Toby (Jesse Camacho) in some combination, and it would be Adrienne’s first time. But the school bus they stole breaks down and they end up in a murder house running for their lives. Also the vice principal, Mr. Cunningham (Robert Patrick) catches them leaving and chases after them.

 

Writer/director Ian Kessner, with co-writer Bo Ransdell, got the tone exactly right. It is a loving homage that is all sincere, no snark. It does break the rules for some clever twists, but it’s never making fun of horror movies. It’s celebrating them in a way that shows we don’t have to give this style up. It can be just as fun as it used to be. By the way, did you catch the names of all the characters? If you’re a horror fan you should notice a pattern. I’ll give you a hint: it’s different for the women and for the men.

 

“You feel good after everyone you loved is dead.”

 

You might recognize a few of the gags from Grindhouse, but they are both arguably better done here. The picture is treated with an effect to simulate a dirty film print, but it’s minor and only in the beginning and to simulate splices and reel changes. To reveal the other Grindhouse gag is a spoiler, but given the backlash against the Tarantino/Rodriguez version, I bet it will play better in Lost After Dark.

 

The cast is just lovely at playing their archetypes: the virgin, the slut, the punk, the A-hole jock, the nerdy best friend, etc. Pacing gets a tad uneven when it spends too much time away from Mr. Cunningham pursuing the kids, but the payoff is worth it and Patrick kills it.

 

Not to say Lost After Dark isn’t as brutal and graphic as any straight faced horror movie. It is. That’s a testament to the tone Ransdell and Kessner struck, and all the actors deserve credit too. They can play in the same sandbox as Freddy, Jason, Leatherface and Michael, but with such love that you feel good after everyone you loved is dead.

’80s Horror Throwback “Lost After Dark” Releases First Trailer

Billed as a homage to the classic 80’s slasher genre, director Ian Kessner’s Lost After Dark has just revealed its first trailer.

 

Raven Banner acquired worldwide sales rights, and will be introducing the film at Cannes this week looking for buyers. The producers describe the films as “pays tribute to iconic horror classics like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween and Friday the 13th. Its unique selling point is that the story is a homage told in a retro style that takes audiences back to 1984, when the slasher film ruled the box office.”

 

Written and directed by Ian Kessner, Lost After Dark’s cat includes Robert Patrick, David Lipper, Elise Gatien, Eve Harlow, Stephan James, Kendra Timmins and Sarah Fisher.

 

Synopsis:

 

Lost After Dark follows a group of teenagers who sneak out of a high school dance, and head out to party at a friend’s cabin. Along the way their ride breaks down, stranding them near an abandoned farmhouse. After the brutal murder of one of their friends, their quest for help becomes one of survival.

 

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Trailer Debut: The ’80s Are Back in the Slasher Film “Lost After Dark”

The indie film scene continues to embrace the ’80s with the latest horror film entry Lost After Dark. I say that because it appears, lately, we’ve been getting word on a variety of indie projects that claim to embrace the fun of ’80s horror. This film, directed by Ian Kessner and featuring Robert Patrick, is actually set in the ’80s (1984 to be precise) and we’ve got a look at the sales poster and trailer, courtesy of Raven Banner Entertainment. The sales outfit is looking for distribution at Cannes. I dig that Alone in the Dark-inspired poster.

 

Lost After Dark follows a group of teenagers who sneak out of a high school dance, and head out to party at a friend’s cabin. Along the way their ride breaks down, stranding them near an abandoned farmhouse. After the brutal murder of one of their friends, their quest for help becomes one of survival. Lost After Dark pays tribute to iconic horror classics like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween and Friday the 13th. Its unique selling point is that the story is a homage told in a retro style that takes audiences back to 1984, when the slasher film ruled the box office.

 

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