LOST AFTER DARK (2015)
Label: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release Date: September 1st 2015
Region Code: A
Duration: 85 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: Ian Kessner
Cast: Robert Patrick, Ian Kessner, David Lipper, Sarah Fisher, Justin Kelly, Jesse Camacho, Kendar Timmins, Eve Harlow, Elise Gatien
Director Ian Kessner does a lot right with retro 80's slasher Lost After Dark beginning with the tone and feel of it, this one feels like a low budget early 80's horror slasher for the most part, beginning with a cast of easy to recognize stock characters who love smoking weed, drinking beer and engaging in pre-marital teen sex. There's the sweet girl Adrienne (Kender Timmons), her all-American best friend Jamier (Elise Gatien), the rocker-Goth chic Marilyn (Eve Harlow), the uptight bitchy blond Heather (Lanie McAuley) and her douchey over privileged boyfriend Johnny (Alexander Calvert), the nice quarterback Sean (Justin Kelly), the token black dude Wes (Stephan James) and the tubby stoner who cracks wise and pines away for the slut of the bunch, Tobe (Jesse Camacho).
The film begins with a nice set-up from 1977 with a quick death scene that establishes the killer and the farmhouse location, then we move ahead to the year 1984 at a high school dance with the Vice Principal Mr. C (Robert Patrick) hassling students in the hallway. Our main cast have the only-brilliant-in-the-eighties idea to hotwire a school bus and driving off to a cabin in the woods owned by Adrienne's father, but they have the awful luck of snagging the one bus with a busted fuel gauge, which leaves the stranded on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, you know... just Lost After Dark!
They head on down the road and happen upon a dilapidated old farm house and decide it looks suitably creepy and would definitely be a great place to look for search for gasoline, and just maybe make-out and get stoned. What they don't know just yet though is that the farmhouse once belonged to a family of cannibal-killers who were shot dead by te cops years earlier, only problem is that one of them survived, a Madman Marz type character named Junior Joad, and he's not too keen on having horny teens on his property, so some heads are gonna have to roll.
The movie takes a bit of time getting to the sweet kills, establishing the characters somewhat as they pair off into couples and explore the property, we get a bit of chemistry, some making-out, and then the kills properly start-up. Once the first victim is strung up with barbed wire everyone knows right away that they are on the menu, from here it's scene after scene of kids fleeing for their lives from the murderous madman with the death scenes being quite good, not glorious, but above average. Being a retro eighties slasher the filmmakers wisely chose to execute these with bloody practical special effects, keeping the use of digital blood to a minimum, or just used tastefully to the point that it didn't make itself obvious.
We have a good range of murder set-pieces, a bear trap to the face, an auger twisted through a spine, a pickaxe and then a pitchfork through the gut, a head bashed against a tree, a car dropped atop someone and a Fulci-esque shard of glass being driven through the eye in a slow fashion-- it's good stuff, and as a slasher fan from way back I appreciated the variety of the ways that the kids are dispatched one after the other. Even Heather's "rat fucking dog" gets offed, and if you know me at all you know that anytime a movie is willing to kill off kids and domesticated animals I am pleased as punch I'm just sick that way..
The kills are fun and the cast of characters are actually likable, far too often slashers nowadays are just a parade of assholes being killed, but with Lost After Dark you actually feel for them a little bit when their time comes around, even the bitchy blond. Kessner and crew has not made a jaded or ironic send-up of the slasher movies we grew up with, they're going for b-level slasher authenticity, the humor is situational and not of the winking 'were making a retro 80's slasher' variety. They do seemingly change-up the order of the kills a bit, in that the characters which you are used to seeing offed in a particular order sorted by stereotype is skewed, which was a nice touch and will keep your toes.
The character of Junior Joad comes straight from the 80s slasher playbook, I can see some of the Sawyer clan from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in there and a bit of Madman Marz from Madman thrown in, a bearded wild man with a monosyllabic vocabulary, and one without a signature weapon. In a nice touch Junior used whatever was at his disposal - from stringing someone up with barbed wire to chopping off their head with whatever is within arms reach.
The 80s aesthetic is further realized by the addition a faux-grain and print damage gimmick, which is used tastefully but inconsistently, they're aiming for that aged look that conveys print damage and it works pretty well, but they did step over the line just one time in my eyes. As one of the young women are about to die they slip in a "scene missing" insert which sort of pissed me off, even more so when a later scene referenced it in a way. I hated it in Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof and I have no love for it here either, it's not authentic and it just draws attention to itself, but it didn't ruin the movie for me, just irked me.
Otherwise the film does a rather excellent job of capturing an early 80s slasher feel with appropriately vintage eighties fashions and a pretty awesome soundtrack with vintage sounding new-wave, new romantic and old school rap songs, a soundtrack begging for a cassette-only release. The way they shot the film feels retro too with some classic POV shots early on, a few modern camera techniques betray the aesthetic from time to time, but the vibe is typically spot on.
Audio/Video: The movie arrives on Blu-ray looking like a somewhat beat-up 35mm print and considering that is what they're going for it is a success on all fronts, colors are strong, details are mostly crisp and the black levels are consistent. The Dolby TrueHD surround audio is pretty decent, not the most surround-centric experience you could hope for but the sweet retro-eighties soundtrack sounds fantastic and dialogue, effects and score are nicely balanced. Optional English SDH subtitles are provided.
Unfortunately there are absolutely no extras on the disc, not even a commentary from first-time feature Director Ian Kessner and the cast and crew, which I would have appreciated, I loved the movie, and I wanted to know more about the making of it - that's a missed opportunity, though director Ian Kessner has indicated that a commentary with him and co-writer/producer Bo Ransdell will be forthcoming via an mp3 that will be made available.
Lost After Dark is a blast of retro slasher goodness from start to finish and a high recommend to fans of eighties horror. This is definitely one of the more successful retro horrors I can recall recently, it captures the vibe and atmosphere of the classic b-movies we know and love and does so without winking at us. 3/5