Against the Night (NR)

Horror 85 min.
By Chris Packham
First-person found-footage movies, like midcentury modern furniture, EDM beat drops and skinny suits, are a notable mid-2000s cliché, and to his credit, director Brian Cavallaro doesn't try to make one with Against the Night. Instead, it's a standard third-person film about a group of 20-something kids attempting to make a found-footage movie in an abandoned prison.

Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia is the unscary film's only source of spookiness. As the kids split into groups and explore the building, cell doors slam shut, specters emerge from the infrared spectral range and a faceless figure stalks and murders them.

They're filming at the behest of Hank (Luke Persiani), an aspiring filmmaker who carries what must be about $15,000 worth of loose video equipment in a duffel bag, so his ghost-hunting movie is clearly bankrolled by top angel investors mom and dad.

It's hard to overstate how annoying the character is. Hank would easily be the top post on the Punchable Faces sub-Reddit, and would brag about it. He would always tell you that knock-knock joke that ends with "Orange you glad I didn't say banana," only he would do the knock-knock-banana part, like, 20 times. If Hank obtained the manufacturing license for an important antiparasitic medication, he would jack up the price 700 percent.

The film vacillates between two explanations for the hauntings — one supernatural, one boring — strobing back and forth until the film's final, exasperating twist. It arrives after a lengthy scene in which Frank Whaley recaps the entire plot with all the energy of an accountant explaining how escrow works. And lord knows, if Whaley can't make your dialogue lively, there's something broken.
Brian Cavallaro Frank Whaley, Tim Torre, Hannah Kleeman, Luke Persiani, Nicole Souza Brian Cavallaro

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