I wanted to like Gone in the Night far more than I did. On the surface, this is a thriller that has all the elements to be a winner. With a solid cast including Dermot Mulroney (Insidious: Chapter 3), Winona Ryder (Stranger Things), and John Gallagher Jr. (10 Cloverfield Lane) all centred around the concept of an abduction at a remote cabin could have been very engaging. Sadly, the screenplay from Matthew Derby and Eli Horowitz feels overcooked and too underdeveloped to really hit home.
Gone in the Night starts off with a concept many horror fans know all too well, with a trip to a remote rental deep in the woods. As Kath (Winona Ryder) and her boyfriend Max (John Gallagher Jr.) head to the cabin, their romantic weekend gets disrupted when a mysterious couple (Owen Teague and Brianne Tju) seem to have also rented the place.
With a long drive back ahead of them, the group decides to share the cabin for the night, and all seems okay until Max disappears sometime in the night with the young woman. Now obsessed with finding out what really happened that night, Kath enlists the owner of the cabin as an unlikely supporter (Dermot Mulroney) to try and find out what really is going on.
Starting off strong, Gone in the Night quickly never capitalizes on its premise, leaving Ryder to float aimlessly through the rest of the film, with no clear picture on her motivations or needs. There is a lot more going on below the surface, with some twists, red herrings, and some elaborate character development, but it ultimately feels wasted once everything is said and done.
With the fantastic premise, and Winona Ryder in the leading role, I went in with high expectations. All the parts are here for a strong film, playing with the concept of age and the horror of being left at your most vulnerable. But as the film progresses, plot and character development seem to be thrown out the window in favour of some shocking moments that make no logical sense to the story.
There is a lot to love about the sense of unease and tension that the early scenes help craft. The drive up to the cabin paints a picture of a couple in need of some personal time. The sweeping shots of the road trip, with quick tidbits of conversations and minor arguments, we get to see who these people are, and why they are on this trip. Even the few scenes of Kath and Max at the cabin work to highlight how the relationship is struggling, and how neither can see past their own issues, but as the film goes on, this is quickly lost.
“Gone in the Night has some good ideas, and some interesting twists, but it left me feeling hallow and bored.”
From the many sub-plots, flash-backs and feeble attempts at solving the mystery, there is a large portion of Gone in the Night that feels like filler, that is buying time before the big twist in the third act. Owen Teague and Brianne Tju are given little to do for most of the runtime, and even when they are given some room to breath and expand on the story, it all feels underdeveloped and ill-conceived.
What could have been a psychological horror tale that explored the trauma of a sudden breakup in the middle of the woods, feels more like an exercise in how to suspend disbelief. While there are good ideas at play, the script never gives them room to breath, or even make sense. While seeing Winona Ryder struggle to solve the mystery can be entertaining, it is not enough to carry the film, especially with no one else in the main story being worth anyone’s energy, and that includes John Gallagher Jr.’s Max.
As each new revelation is unveiled is more bananas than the last, it is hard to take the characters or the story they inhabit seriously. I wanted to be on board with where Gone in the Night was trying to take me, but as each new layer was peeled away I was left more confused, wondering where the promise I first saw had gone.
Gone in the Night has some good ideas, and some interesting twists, but it left me feeling hollow and bored. There is a lot of talent wasted in a story that feels more concerned with shocking the audience than making sense. There is a world where this script and film could have been edited to deliver a solid experience, building on the tense situation it set up, sadly we are left with this mess of a movie that fails to deliver on any meaningful level.
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