Dead of Night

Dead of Night (1999)
Image Entertainment
Cast: Kirsty McCloud, James Purefoy, Chris Adamson
Extras: Theatrical Trailer

Cliches run amok in the newly released horror thriller, ’Dead of Night’. (The film was released as ’Lighthouse’ in the UK, but it got a new title for its American video debut.) The film plays like a tribute to John Carpenter, as it combines elements ’Halloween’, ’The Fog’, and ’Assault on Precinct 13’, with a dash of the recent ’Pitch Black’ thrown in for good measure. In the film, a prison ship gets lost in a storm at sea. Unbeknownst to most of the passengers, the ship is carrying Leo Rook (Adamson), the world’s most notorious serial killer. Rook escapes and rows to a nearby island. On that island is a lighthouse, whose staff is celebrating their last night of operation before the lighthouse becomes automated. Rook dispenses of the staff and turns off the light, causing the prison ship to crash upon the rocks. The passengers on the ship, which contains a head-strong female doctor (McCloud), and the prisoner with the heart of gold (Purefoy), the uptight prison guard, and so on, making sure that every stereotype is represented, retreat to the lighthouse, where they are hunted by Rook.

Despite a promising black-and-white opening sequence, it become obvious very quickly that ’Dead of Night’ is very unoriginal and that we’ve seen it all before. The only part that even touches on originality is a slightly suspenseful new twist on the ’hiding in the bathroom stall’ theme. Also, this is the only scene which shows any visual imagination, as most of the film is shot in a very artless style. There is some blood in the film, but the murders are very hum-drum and boring. Also, Rook wears white jazz shoes. Who is he, Bob Fosse?

The DVD of ’Dead of Night’ features some problems as well. The film is presented full-frame. The picture is crisp and clear for the most part. As all of the action takes place at night, in the dark, the DVD does a fine job of reproducing the blacks, making the lit areas stand out very well. The audio is another story entirely. As the film opened, I was very impressed with the volume and bass response in the Dolby 2-channel surround soundtrack. It was one of the best 2-channel soundtracks that I’d ever heard. Then, the dialogue began and my opinion changed entirely. The music and sound effects are mixed very loudly, while the dialogue is barely audible. This had me reaching for my volume control throughout the film. Add to this the thick British accents of some of the actors, and you’ve got dialogue that is practically undecipherable.

I always welcome new independent horror releases on DVD, but ’Dead of Night’ is dead on arrival. The unoriginal storyline combined with the lackluster audio and video presentation add up to a disappointing package.