Saturday, October 26, 2013

For Halloween, Richard Schenkman's MISCHIEF NIGHT hits theaters one-night-only, October 30

You'd think, what with Halloween being one of the most popular faux holidays of the year, that some movie studio, major or minor, would make sure it opened a scary movie that week. Not usually. (Sometimes they'll synchronize a particular fright film to open on a Friday, the 13.) This year, however, there is a little slasher number sneaking into town (some 41 of 'em, actually, and all across the country) entitled MISCHIEF NIGHT which takes place on Halloween eve (which is evidently known by that "Mischief Night" name in certain circles -- not mine, but maybe yours).
Directed and with a screenplay by Richard Schenkman (shown at right in what I suspect is a rather old photo, and who years ago gave us a fine little "guy-'n-gal" comedy called The Pompatus of Love), from a story by Jesse Baget and Eric D. Wilkinson, this is a movie that might best be described in the words of my spouse, as we finished watching it: "I've seen worse." So have I. Quite a bit worse, actually. If this sounds like damning with faint praise, I suppose it is. The movie, after all, deals in practically nothing but the clichés of the genre. Yet Mr. Schenkman seems to know his way around a cliché, so that he can wring more suspense and surprise out of it than you'd expect. From what's in the microwave oven to the broken glass on the floor (will the blind girl step in it?!), we're kept pretty constantly on our toes.

Consider the opening scene in which an unfaithful wife is about to do the dirty with her lover when they hear something like an intruder downstairs. This is pure been-there-done-that stuff served up again, but with enough skilled touches in the script and direction that we follow along queasily.

Once this scene is out of the way, the movie shifts ahead to the same house with a new family now installed: Dad (Daniel Hugh Kelly, above) and his psychosomatically blind daughter (Noell Coet, below), who suffers from guilt over the car-accident death of her mom a few years back. Perfect victims, right? Subjected to a kind of home-invasion-cum-Wait-Until-Dark. So we're prepared to watch the killer go to town. Which he does, with relish, of course, but occasional restraint, as well. (This is but one part of the how-to-work-around-a-cliché lesson that the film provides.)

Performances are as good as those in the genre usually get, but I do wish that the writers here could have burnished the story and script a bit. One of the more noticeable problems: Why doesn't the daughter tell her father that her boyfriend has gone missing in the house? This might have saved a life. Oh, well. Saving lives is probably not the reason certain audiences flock to this kind of film.

Mischief Night -- via Specticast, and running 87 minutes -- will make its one-night-only, one-performance-only theatrical debut on Wednesday, October 30, Halloween eve, in cities all around the nation. Click here and scroll down to find a venue near you.

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