If you’re a horror fan like me, you’ll have spent many an evening pouring through the multitude of films in the slasher subgenre, ranging from the classics like “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th,” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” to the endless swarm of terrible knock-offs that lie on the other end of the spectrum. Indeed the 80s saw many filmmakers try to capture the glory that filmmakers like Carpenter, Cunningham, and Craven did, only to find themselves with something that was uninspired and forgettable. As a kind of homage to this class of slasher film, writers Ian Kessner and Bo Ransdell have fashioned one of their very own, calling it “Lost After Dark,” in an attempt to capture the time and feeling of this period where audiences found themselves over-saturated with horror flicks featuring stalkers, not-so-bright teenagers, and plenty of blood.
The plot here is nothing special. A group of teenagers decides to break the rules by leaving a school dance, stealing a bus, and going on a little trip. Unfortunately for them, the bus runs out of gas, leaving them stranded in the middle of nowhere. As they scout out the area, they find a spooky, old, and seemingly-abandoned house nearby, which, in typical horror fashion, they decide to explore. As you can probably guess, the house isn’t really abandoned, and is in fact the home of a psychotic killer who decides to hunt them for his next prey. Lots of running, screaming, and murder ensues.
As mentioned earlier, the point of “Lost After Dark” was to mimic an 80s slasher, and as far as that goal goes, it accomplishes it rather well. It has all the required elements (a killer, teenagers, gore, etc.) and an entirely generic plot that fits right in with the others. They even go so far as to make the footage look older by adding in scratches as if it was on old film reels. Unfortunately, that’s as much praise as can be laid upon it, for in their attempt to imitate one of the many lame, dull, derivative, and forgettable slasher films of the 80s, they have ended up with a lame, dull, derivative, and forgettable slasher of their very own.
In that sense, I suppose you could say that their experiment was successful, but as to why they would choose to copy the lower class of this celebrated subgenre is a mystery. Why not take a lesson from the great John Carpenter (yes, “Halloween” was from 1978, but it was pretty much responsible for the wave of 80s knock-offs) or one of the others who brought about a landmark during the period? They may have hit their mark, but by aiming so low, we merely get a film that drags for its entire 85-minute runtime, produces no tension or scares, and is ultimately far too predictable and unsatisfying. Kessner and Ransdell no doubt meant well with their homage to old-school “dead teenager movies” (as Roger Ebert used to call them), but sadly their film is destined to be buried with the horde of other lesser-slashers just like it.
“Lost After Dark” comes to Blu-ray in a 1.78:1, 1080p High Definition transfer that does a fine job of capturing the feel of a slasher from the 80s, adding scratches and grit to the image to make it look more vintage. Aside from the noted additions, it’s a fantastic picture that presents no problems even in the darkest of scenes. The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio is a tad soft, but is still easily heard (not that you really need to hear the silly dialogue or screaming), so adjustments are not particularly necessary. Overall, the film has received decent treatment, allowing for a satisfactory experience.
“Lost After Dark” is an intriguing attempt to recreate the style of a slasher straight out of the 80s, and while it does mostly succeed in this attempt, unfortunately it falls right in with the downright bad entries of the period, emulating their tedium, predictability, and lack of originality right down to the letter. If screenwriters Ian Kessner and Bo Ransdell had aimed a little higher with their homage, this could have been something really special, but unfortunately they decided to settle for something that’s doomed to be forgotten immediately upon its conclusion.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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