Director Ian Kessner’s feature film Lost After Dark is quite simply, “The best 80’s slasher film that wasn’t filmed in the 80’s” (and the production should feel free to use that quote as liberally as they’d like for the flick’s marketing materials). It’s just that good.
Release Date: 2014
Directed By: Ian Kessner
Written By: Ian Kessner, Bo Ransdell
Robert Patrick as Mr. C.
David Lipper as Norman, Adrienne’s Father
Alexander Calvert as Johnnie
Jesse Camacho as Toby
Co-written by director Kessner and Bo Ransdell, Lost After Dark eschews the Scream ‘meta’ approach in its lovingly clever homage to the 1980’s slasher film, as it follows a group of teenagers out to party when the school bus they’ve stolen breaks down. In true 80’s form, it isn’t long before the randy adolescents discover a creepy farm house, as well as the owner of it; a cannibal killer known as ‘Junior Joad.’
Kessner’s approach to this material is pitch-perfect, and he clearly knows the sub-genre. Delivering familiar slasher tropes in the forms of a virgin (presented as the ‘final girl’), a slut, a bad-boy, a jock, a nerd, et al., as well as in narrative, Lost After Dark’s retro approach reminds us as to why the 80’s flicks it embraces were a box office phenomenon, and while Kessner does happily (and surprisingly) subvert a cliché or two, he never does so in a ‘cutesy’ manner. This flick could have been released in 1984, and you may believe that it was.
As for the performances, actors Kendra Leigh Timmins, Elise Gatien, Eve Harlow, Lanie McAuley, Justin Kelly, Alexander Calvert, Stephan James and Jesse Camacho deliver not only as an ensemble cast but singularly in their roles, and Terminator 2’s Robert Patrick and his portrayal of high school principal and Vietnam veteran ‘Mr. C’ is a particular standout. This being a slasher flick, it’s of course equally about the killer as it is his victims, and Mark Wiebe’s crazed, physically intimidating performance as ‘Junior Joad’ is impressive to behold (as is the character design).
Production design by Peter Mihaichuk is top-notch. From the sets, to the cars, to the clothes (the latter handled by Susan Mihaichuk) the audience is transported back to a time when the Sony Walkman was a thing, Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ was burning up the radio and Ralph Macchio felled Johnny with a Crane Kick. Hair and makeup by Michele Sullivan and Trina Brink are also spot-on.
Regarding the cinematography (by Curtis Peterson, whose long list of 80’s credits include assistant camera on 1980’s The Changeling), Lost After Dark was shot on the Red Scarlet and the Red Epic (Kessner had wanted to shoot on 35mm, though by the time principal photography commenced there weren’t any film labs left in Montreal to process such). To give the flick that ‘film’ look, Kessner utilized the CineGrain package, which lends Lost After Dark an entirely legitimate retro look, and with the exception of a ‘Missing Reel’ gag (ala Grindhouse), the film feels an actual child of the 80’s. Score by Eric Allaman, special effects by Luc Benning and editing by Ros Wisman also keep Kessner’s love letter on point. I predict a theatrical release for this one shortly.
I’ll also predict that its eventual Blu ray release will sit proudly within horror fans’ collections worldwide, right next to the 80’s slasher films it celebrates.
Well done, Kessner.