ScreamFest 2014 Review: ‘Lost After Dark’

Lost After Dark is adorable. That may not be the comment the filmmakers of a horror movie are looking for, but it suits the tone of Lost After Dark anyway. It is a new movie shot in the style of ‘80s horror movies, but the cheesy kind, the Friday the 13th knockoffs that we love anyway. 

Adrienne (Kendra Leigh Timmins) leads her high school friends away from a school dance to spend time alone at her cabin. She and Jamie (Elise Gatien), Marilyn (Eve Harlow) and Heather (Lanie McAuley) all hope to hook up with Sean (Justin Kelly), Johnnie (Alexander Calvert), Wesley (Stephan James) and Toby (Jesse Camacho) in some combination, and it would be Adrienne’s first time. But the school bus they stole breaks down and they end up in a murder house running for their lives. Also the vice principal, Mr. Cunningham (Robert Patrick) catches them leaving and chases after them. 

Writer/director Ian Kessner, with co-writer Bo Ransdell, got the tone exactly right. It is a loving homage that is all sincere, no snark. It does break the rules for some clever twists, but it’s never making fun of horror movies. It’s celebrating them in a way that shows we don’t have to give this style up. It can be just as fun as it used to be. By the way, did you catch the names of all the characters? If you’re a horror fan you should notice a pattern. I’ll give you a hint: it’s different for the women and for the men. 


“You feel good after everyone you loved is dead.”


You might recognize a few of the gags from Grindhouse, but they are both arguably better done here. The picture is treated with an effect to simulate a dirty film print, but it’s minor and only in the beginning and to simulate splices and reel changes. To reveal the other Grindhouse gag is a spoiler, but given the backlash against the Tarantino/Rodriguez version, I bet it will play better in Lost After Dark.

The cast is just lovely at playing their archetypes: the virgin, the slut, the punk, the A-hole jock, the nerdy best friend, etc. Pacing gets a tad uneven when it spends too much time away from Mr. Cunningham pursuing the kids, but the payoff is worth it and Patrick kills it. 

Not to say Lost After Dark isn’t as brutal and graphic as any straight faced horror movie. It is. That’s a testament to the tone Ransdell and Kessner struck, and all the actors deserve credit too. They can play in the same sandbox as Freddy, Jason, Leatherface and Michael, but with such love that you feel good after everyone you loved is dead. 


(Lost After Dark screened at Screamfest 2014)

Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline and the man behind Best Episode Ever. Follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel.