Night People (2015)

All myths start somewhere

Writer: Gerard Lough
Director: Gerard Lough

Night People is a stylish yet unsatisfying portmanteau style film from Ireland that combines crime, science fiction and horror genres.

The frame of the movie consists of two crooks – experienced criminal Mike (Michael Parle) and newbie Luke (Jack Dean-Shepherd) – entering an empty house. They’ve been hired to burn the place down so that the owner can collect on the insurance money. Whilst waiting for the final go ahead they each tell a story.

The first of these, Mike’s, involves the discovery of a strange artefact that might or might not have connections with the Voynich Manuscript. We’re never really sure exactly what it does, but that doesn’t matter because it’s just a McGuffin in a story that is really about trust and betrayal.

Luke’s story is rather closer to traditional horror territory, involving Faustina (Claire Blennerhassett) who acts as a matchmaker for people with unusual sexual fetishes. She becomes involved with some very dark people who need her to do some very dark things. The theme of this story is, for me, clear from the main character’s name: the question “How far would you go?”

We then return to our framing scene for an ending that, against the odds, ties everything together. Well, sort of. A lot is left unclear with plenty of loose ends and the sort of ambiguity that Mike enjoys.

There are some interesting ideas in Night People and I wanted to like it more than I did. Direction is – apart from the shaky camera – very nice with a good visual atmosphere. In particular there are a couple of shots that look pretentious at first but are actually very significant. Acting is variable: Parle and Blennerhassett are superb, some of the others less so. The music, whilst good, is too strong in places.

The problem is the story telling. I don’t mind the fact that a lot is left ambiguous. The problem I have is that it all takes so long getting anywhere. Both the internal stories just go on and on and on with too much detail… or, as the characters might say, too many embellishments. I kept thinking “Get on with it!”. There isn’t enough there for 90 minutes let alone 108.

So an interesting idea is let down by the storytelling and a script that needs considerable trimming. If Night People was been cut down to 75 minutes or had a third internal story then I’d have enjoyed it a lot more than I did.