Monday, January 9, 2023

The Good, The Bad, And The Verdict: “Night of the Bastard” (2022)

by Joseph Perry and Mike Imboden

In our “The Good, the Bad, and the Verdict” film reviews, both Joseph and Mike give their thoughts on a slice of cinema. For this installment, it’s Dark Sky Films' satanic siege Night of the Bastard.

In Night of the Bastard’s prologue set in the 1970s, a young couple travels to visit a friend at his desert home but instead find themselves slaughtered by members of a satanic cult, with the woman’s baby ripped from her sliced womb. Flash forward about four decades later to find a man named Reed (London May) living in a remote desert area with his pet tortoise. He doesn’t want or need any other company, so when a trio of young campers encroach on his land, he drives them off at gunpoint.

As the three friends walk away to find another place to camp, they mistake an occult ritual for a potential party, with only Kiera (Mya Hudson) managing to escape with her life. She winds up at Reed’s house with a stab wound, and he reluctantly takes her in. Together, they do their best to fend off cult leader Claire (Hannah Pierce) and her lunatic followers, but naturally, it is no easy feat. Blood will be shed, dark secrets will be revealed, and demented events will take place.

The Good
Joseph: Night of the Bastard is gritty, gruesome, retro-grindhouse done right. Director Erik Boccio takes the tried-and-true set-up of a curmudgeonly loner being forced to help a stranger in a siege — by a satanic cult, no less — and runs with it to craft a thrilling slice of fear-fare cinema.
The pacing for Night of the Bastard is superb, with fright-fare action in fine order, sprinkled with dramatic moments and dark humor. Though basic tropes of cult and siege horror are in play, the execution is exhilarating enough to give the film a unique character as well as an above-average feel for the subgenres.
May assesses the role of the ill-tempered hermit called into action toppingly, and Hudson does fine work as his injured, angry partner in trying to outwit the cult members. Pierce gives a fun performance as the den mother of the baddies, obviously relishing in her role while staying just this side of scenery chewing.

Mike: It’s a pretty simple premise with a mix of “satanic panic” and “siege movie” mixed together, so if you’re looking for something to fill that bill then Night of the Bastard does a great job.  The film is brisk and doesn’t waste time getting into the meat of the action with even the prelude moving quickly and yet still managing to set the table for what will follow - and what follows is a fun and engaging movie in the style of old drive-in flicks you’d see paired with something that had “Don’t” in the title and probably mentioned it wasn’t for sensitive viewers.

The Bad
Joseph: Honestly, I have no quibbles about this movie! 

Mike: If you like your villains in a movie to be as fleshed out as they were on the old Batman TV show, you’ll be satisfied here.  Aside from the main villainess, the rest of the baddies could have been wearing shirts that said “Cultist 1”, “Cultist 2”, etc., with their characters being hulking brute, biker dude, crazy “gotta film this cuz it’s tradition” guy, and so on.  
I don’t know if that’s because of the acting and delivery or the lines themselves, but the writing, specifically some of the dialogue, was a bit on the weak side.  
On a “What If…?” level, I wonder if this would have worked better had it been filmed on a grainy film stock with a little pop and hiss in the audio.

The Verdict
Joseph: Recommended for fans of quality independent fright fare, along with aficionados of cult-related horror and action horror, Night of the Bastard is a heck of a work and a solid calling card for director Boccio.

Mike:  Despite feeling underwhelmed by the lack of character depth and somewhat cliched writing, I still enjoyed Night of the Bastard and would recommend it to folks looking for a little throwback to old grindhouse style exploitation flicks, even if it is a bit too polished to be one.

Night of the Bastard, from Dark Sky Films, comes to Select Theaters, Digital & VOD on January 13, 2023.

Night of the Bastard
Directed by: Erik Boccio
Written by: Christian Ackerman and Chuck Foster (screenplay); Erik Boccio and London May (story)
Produced by: Your Funeral, Brutal Realty Productions, and Black Vortex Cinema
Genre: Horror
Starring: London May, Mya Hudson, Hannah Pierce
Runtime: 1 hour 22 minutes
Rated: NR
Release Date: 2022 

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