TAKE BACK THE NIGHT (REVIEW)
Dir. Gia Elliot
Reviewer. Ed Hartland
When artist, Jane, finds herself the victim of a violent monster attack, she attempts to take control of the situation and start a campaign to hunt down her attacker. As her story gets traction in the media, her past is used against her to throw doubt on her version of events. Alone in the fight, Jane begins to doubt her memory and whether the monster exists at all.
TAKE BACK THE NIGHT is the debut feature for director Gia Elliot—who co-wrote the screenplay with the lead actor, Emma Fitzpatrick—and it’s a gutsy offering from both of them. Elliot is handling a high-concept horror with something important to say and Fitzpatrick turns in a layered performance as the woman at the heart of this story—strength and vulnerability warring together.
One of the things TAKE BACK THE NIGHT does really well is placing Jane at its heart. Her attacker—a monster of shadow and flies—it refused the limelight and it’s because of this that you’re not left with the unpleasant exploitative taste that can linger with horror films which deal with sexual violence.
The way Jane’s story is doubted feels horribly believable. The hints and implications—due to a history of drink and drugs and family mental health—that Jane is someone to be doubted as a self-aggrandising fantasist, or that she might have, in some way, brought the attack on herself. This is a really interesting thread in Elliot and Fitzpatrick’s script. Not just interesting, but uncomfortably timely.
The other aspect that I found very compelling was the hints of MeToo style movement, women unified by a symbol representing a wound inflicted by the monster. Resistance and solidarity in the face of the violence they face. The problem is that this element comes into play quite late on in the film which left me with a sense of an opportunity missed and an indicator of a larger problem: pacing.
TAKE BACK THE NIGHT starts well, from a pacing perspective, but loses momentum shortly after the attack on Jane. Part of this could be due to Elliot juggling a number of storylines, but whatever the reason is, it results in the film having periods of time that drag a little—thrown into the spotlight whenever the film kicks into gear again.
While much of TAKE BACK THE NIGHT has a great, cinematic look, there are sequences that feel flat, visually. Jane and her sister arguing over hot drinks in Jane’s apartment in particular lacks the depth of a couple more interesting camera angles. It’s not a case of requiring massive alterations, but there are a few moments when the film feels like it’s one or two shot variations away from being spot on.
My problems with TAKE BACK THE NIGHT can be summarised as patchy. With a touch more consistency in pacing and cinematography, I think I would be looking at this being a four-star rating (it really isn’t far off) but as it is, Take Back the Night is a film that aims high; bringing important and timely themes into a psychological-supernatural horror, but it doesn’t quite manage the landing.