Shabby treatment for grade-A horror classic
Libretio | 10/24/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
DEAD OF NIGHT
(UK - 1999)
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Theatrical soundtrack: Dolby Digital
Simon Hunter's remarkable British horror-thriller LIGHTHOUSE is one of the best kept secrets of the 1990's. Barely released anywhere outside of the festival circuit, it was eventually picked up for US distribution by A-Pix, where the title was quickly changed to DEAD OF NIGHT against Hunter's express wishes. "We know our market!" A-Pix offered by way of explanation, before dumping the film briefly into a handful of theaters with a poor ad campaign and then consigning it directly to the video graveyard. What's so galling about A-Pix' shabby treatment is that the film is one of the most brilliantly-realized horror movies in recent memory.
Hunter's own script tells the tale of a prison ship which strikes the rocks and sinks off the coast of a remote lighthouse-island 300 miles from the mainland. A small number of guards and prisoners escape the disaster and take refuge in the lighthouse where they're stalked by another survivor of the wreck, the monstrous psychopath Leo Rook (Chris Adamson). The basic premise is fairly familiar and prompts fond memories (perhaps deliberately) of Jim O'Connolly's equally outrageous TOWER OF EVIL (1972), but Hunter's tightly-constructed script and dynamic visual style propels the narrative forward like a guided missile, pausing every so often for some truly gripping set-pieces, beginning with an early sequence in which the ship's captain (accomplished character actor Paul Brooke) becomes trapped in a stall in the lighthouse-washroom with Rook on the other side of the door, oblivious to the captain's presence. Then Brooke accidentally knocks a can of air-freshener from a shelf, precipitating a nail-biting cat-and-mouse confrontation which ends on a shrill note of genuine horror. But the real fireworks are reserved for the climax, a knock-down drag-out rollercoaster ride combining high-octane stuntwork and spectacular visual effects as the remaining survivors confront Rook at the top of the lighthouse. This incredible sequence contains more cliff-hanging thrills than a dozen serials and will leave most viewers completely drained, exhausted and thoroughly entertained.
Populated with a cast of familiar British faces (including Don Warrington, heroine Rachel Shelley and James Purefoy as the regulation handsome hero), all of whom invest their roles with character traits which prevent them from sliding into routine stereotype, the film maintains an impressive degree of logic, isolating potential victims through careful calculation rather than narrative contrivance. And while there's plenty of R-rated brutality on display, Hunter emphasizes the thrill of pursuit and the THREAT of violence rather than an excess of splattery gore, and Simon Bowles' impressive low-budget production design transforms the storm-lashed island and lighthouse into a shadowy, antiquated killing ground. Veteran cinematographer Tony Imi (whose career stretches back to the 1960's) gives the whole thing an expensive-looking gloss, and Debbie Wiseman's moody score is impressively grandiose. All in all, this is a tremendously exciting feature debut from a director who's clearly in love with his own material and completely in command of the filmmaking process. Together with a superb cast and crew, he's produced a minor masterpiece.
Inventive and Gripping Horror Debut
Mr.Philip L. Ashton | Sheffield,, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom | 09/13/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"British director Simon Hunter's feature directorial debut is a frequently very suspenseful, gory, and involving tale of a desperate group of prisoners washed up on an offshore island, only to discover that a serial killer has escaped undetected from their stricken ship. He decapitates half of the lighthouse staff and then starts in on the panic stricken group including a plucky female psychologist and wrongly convicted murderer. This is a brilliant setting for a horror film. Dark, stormy, menacing and with claustrophobic scenes in the old lighthouse. In some ways a throwback to the slasher films of the early eighties but done with heaps of style, nail biting tension and sympathetic, memorable characters. Hunter has just earned the gig on the upcoming 20 million dollar The Mutant Chronicles for Hollywood producer Howard Pressman on the strength of this movie. Well deserved, every fan of modern horror should see this movie."
Not For The Feint Of Heart or Weak Of Bladder
Lanore A. Saltzman | Lincoln, NE United States | 06/06/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Dead Of Night(Also known as Lighthouse) is one of the best thrillers I've ever seen. The story and cinematography are top notch. Leo Rook (Christopher Adamson) is one mean killing machine with a face that would stop a clock. The climax is as hard hitting as any I've seen and very original. Don't pass this one up! You won't be disappointed."
5+ stars for epic horror movie 2 stars for dvd treatment
Allen Ewasiuk | edmonton, AB Canada | 04/14/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When purchasing this movie I was not expecting more than your typical stalk and slash movie with 80's cliches in it. Boy was I totally wrong!!!! This movie is up there with all the other classic serial killer movies like Phsycho, Silence of the Lambs, and Maniac, but I thought was the real winner with this movie was the two edge of your seat scenes (the bathroom and ending that you will have to watch to find out).
Leo Rook totally up there in the top ten serial killers IMO.
You must get this sleeper of a classic horror before it is no longer available and is OOP."