Film Review – The Long Night

The Long Night

The Long Night

Grace (Scout Taylor-Compton) and Jack (Nolan Gerard Funk) are a couple living in New York. The two head toward the southern end of the country in hopes of finding Grace’s missing parents. Their search leads them to an old plantation home settled in the middle of an expansive property – lined with trees and overlooking a vast wetland. Although the estate looks welcoming enough, Grace and Jack notice something peculiar: the owner is nowhere to be found. No one else is on the estate other than themselves and their cellphone reception has gone dead. When you visit a strange place with no one in sight and no way to contact the outside world, you might be in a little bit of trouble.

And trouble is exactly what Grace and Jack get into. The Long Night (2022) is a home invasion/cult horror film in which our couple’s seemingly quiet weekend gets interrupted by a flock of black hooded, skull wearing intruders. Directed by Rich Ragsdale (screenplay by Robert Sheppe and Mark Young), there is a lot here to admire in terms of atmosphere and tone. While the entire piece may not have entirely worked for me, individual sequences and imagery did have an unnerving effect. Fans of the genre may recognize familiar elements, but the craftsmanship and style might be enough to make the viewing experience worthwhile.

The Long Night 2

The first half operates as the strongest section, with Ragsdale’s direction taking time to develop mood. There are stretches where he allows the narrative to breathe and develop slowly. When Grace and Jack drive to the estate, Pierluigi Malavasi’s camera follows the car as it winds through the highway, with Sherri Chung’s low, ominous score accompanying them. High angle shots capture the landscape, amplifying the isolation of the property within a prison of trees and lakes. When Grace and Jack enter the house, the camera glides behind them in a long unbroken take, showing off the rooms with all their odd furnishings. This builds on the uneasy vibes. Parallels can be made to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) in how the opening scenes establish the environment as an active participant to the story. 

But for all the effectiveness of these initial scenes, the narrative eventually must kick into high gear. This is where some viewers may become disconnected. Things shift from apprehension to fear when Grace and Jack make some shocking discoveries. A totem in the middle of the forest, bloody pentagrams drawn all over the house, an animal sacrifice on the front porch – all signs that something devious is occurring. Things reach a boiling point when they look out the window to find a torch wielding, masking wearing cult surrounding them. The second half becomes a standoff, with Grace and Jack trying to figure out a way to escape and the cult gradually exerting their influence.

The confrontation between the two sides is a story thread The Long Night has trouble maintaining. Because the action takes place in one location with a small cast, the narrative begins to meander trying to find reasons to keep the standoff going. Grace and Jack go in and out of the house, always running into some obstacle that prevents them from leaving. Even more problematic is that the cult doesn’t really do much. Yes, the masks and cloaks look creepy as hell, and when they light up a large wooden pentagram, the flames behind them make for an impactful image. But that doesn’t change the fact that they just…kinda stand there. They remain like silent statues, not responding to any of Grace and Jack remarks. They wait, and wait, and wait some more. At one point I wondered if any of them needed to use the bathroom.

The Long Night 3

The writing and direction take liberties to make the cult feel dangerous despite them being constantly still. There is an explanation for their patience – waiting for a certain timeframe to make their move – but that doesn’t really help things in terms of onscreen action. When someone attacks them, they respond with a telekinetic power that can hold and manipulate a person’s thoughts and movement (there’s no explanation for this). This does make for some cool shots, such as when they magically force someone to float in midair. But it’s all arbitrary, as though they were granted these abilities on a whim. We don’t get enough opportunity to understand the innerworkings of the cult, their operations, or their motivations. It’s all explained hazily, skimmed over without ever getting into the details. Maybe the production was aiming to generate fear out of the unknown, which is fine. However, the final product came off more as an interesting idea than a tangible threat.

Credit should be given to Scout Taylor-Compton for her performance as Grace. She is asked to provide a wide array of emotions and is put in some vulnerable positions. She dives in headfirst with full commitment. One scene has her rolling and squirming on a dirt floor. Any other actor who doesn’t go in one hundred percent in this moment could be unconvincing or even appear a bit silly. Taylor-Compton makes us believe what she is going through with her physical performance. As the narrative gets noticeably more abstract and vague as things progress, Taylor-Compton acts as the anchor trying to hold everything together.

The Long Night is a horror film that sits right down the middle. Early promise fizzles as the story started to run around in circles in the latter stages. This is one of those instances where one audience may like it but another may not. Check it out for yourself and see what you think.




Allen is a moviegoer based out of Seattle, Washington. His hobbies include dancing, playing the guitar, and, of course, watching movies.

You can reach Allen via email or Twitter

View all posts by this author