December 17, 2013
Richard Schenkman (screenplay), Jesse Baget (Story, writer) and Eric D. Wilkinson (story)
Ian Bamberg as Jimmy
Noell Coet as Emily
Adam C. Edwards as The Intruder
Stephanie Erb as Lauren
Daniel Hugh Kelly as David
Erica Leerhsen as Kim
Charlie O'Connell as Will
Richard Riehle as Trucker
Mischief Night is apparently an actual “holiday” of sorts that coincides with the “trick” part of Halloween’s Trick or Treat sometimes, but is celebrated other nights in some areas as well. This particular night is also known by other names, such as Cabbage Night where people in some areas of Queens NY throw rotten fruit at neighbors, and the basics of TPing people’s houses and throwing eggs seem to also fall under the titles of “Goosey Night”, “Gate Night”, “Tick Tack Night”, and the list goes on. According to Wikipedia, that is. Personally, I’ve never heard of it. Getting into trouble by egging houses and filling paper bags with dog s**t, lighting it on fire, and leaving it on someone’s doorstep yeah, sure… who hasn’t done that stuff on Halloween? No, just kidding.
Well the night of mischief is also the setting for the horror film Mischief Night, but the mischief that happens in these parts is deadly. On that night a guy with a semi-transparent mask and rain coat sneaks around the house of some unsuspecting victims, and in the opening scene the victim happens to be a young woman (Erica Leerhsen) married to a rich guy and living in a mansion having bath tub sex with her adulterous lover while the hubby in in Tokyo (“I’m gonna rip you to shreds”, he says while looking into her wide and excited eyes… so romantic). After the cheating woman and her ripped boyfriend (Charlie O’Connell – brother of Piranha 3D’s Jerry O’Connell) meet their end by the hand of the masked killer looking for a rain storm (she was a horrible actress, so no big loss) seemingly all is calm until the next year’s night of mischief. Then we meet Emily Watson (Noell Coet).
Emily is blind and has asthma, but all reports indicate that there is nothing physiologically wrong with her. Nine years earlier she was in the car when her mother was in a fatal crash (Emily lived, obviously) and her guilt about the whole thing being her fault brought about psychosomatic symptoms of loss of sight and lung function. Otherwise, she is perky and spry, making sure that she can do anything she needs to without letting the fact that she can’t see get in the way. She lives a normal teenage life with her father David (Daniel Hugh Kelly, Dee Wallace’s husband inCujo) and boyfriend Jimmy (newcomer Ian Bamberg). Things look pretty good for Emily, except she can’t see (was that insensitive?); she’s planning to learn to ski with her beau next weekend, and she’s even gotten dear ole’ Dad to go on his first date since the accident. Unfortunately that first date falls on, you guessed it, Mischief Night. Now we have a possibly but not really blind girl vs. a plastic mask wearing rain fetishist. Drama ensues.
There are a lot of things to really like, possibly love, about Mischief Night. There are also a ton of things that are absolute groaners. One of the elements that kind of falls into both categories is the extreme formulaic and predictable nature of the film. Seriously, stop for a second and think about the kinds of gags you might add when you pit a deadly but mischievous killer against a blind girl who roams around the house without trouble because she’s so independent. Hmmm… maybe I’d move some furniture so she will crash into it? Yep, that’s in there. Maybe I’d move something that she accesses regularly so she can’t find it? Yep, that too. Perhaps I would stand silently in the room and look at her menacingly (well, as menacingly as I could with a semi-transparent plastic mask on) so the audience can feel the chills, maybe even reaching out to her ala the pitch black scene in The Silence of the Lambs? Nailed it. Throw in a little knock out of the boyfriend and then come back to her and touch her hair, letting her think that it’s the boyfriend when it’s not, and you get the picture. The strange thing is, there was something sort of fun, almost comforting about the fact that this film played along exactly as I imagined it would, without anything to throw a wrench in my expectations. It’s also kind of silly and lame.
Beyond the horror formula being played out pitch perfect, there were lots of other clichés that weren’t quite so “charming”. All of the splitting up instead of staying together, “I’ll be right back” and never coming back, strange twist at the end, victims coming to terms with their demons, on and on. Mischief Night is more like a jigsaw puzzle, pulling together a bunch of stock scenes and responses, than a creative work. Still, stupid as it sounds, the film is very entertaining.
The Scream series, particularly the first one, took a very tongue-in-cheek stance on horror clichés, making sure that they were all included and simultaneously made fun of. Is it possible that Director and co-writer Richard Scenkman and co-writers Jesse Baget and Eric D. Wilkiinson had the same visioin in mind, but this time without making it obvious that they were making fun of clichés because audiences would be way too sophisticated to think that they actually included every cliché in the book because that’s all they could think of? Maybe. There is one cliché mysteriously missing though… the troubled past or agregious event that brought the killer around in the first place. Nary a word about that. Very random, this killer, with no background or motive shared. Nothing at all.
I really want to talk about the end, both of the murderous action and the emotional turmoil of Emily, but this isn’t a spoiler article so I will refrain… but I really do want to complain about them both. I’ll just give you two hints: Included are chainsaws, and texting. You’ll either have to figure it out, or watch this film. The best viewing might just be with a group of horror fans who want something a little lighter that they can complain about the whole time, before getting on to one of the classics. Add a case of PBR and I call that a good time.