Back in the nineteen-sixties, in the woods on this mountain road a couple stopped for a moment of intimacy, only to be interrupted when the woman saw a face in the trees and they became convinced there was some creep watching them. How right they were, and soon the man was dead and the woman was giving birth to a baby that was claimed by an elemental monster that lived in the region. Move forward to the present day, and in the same location a family (plus the daughter's best friend) were driving up to the top of the mountain where the iron deposits there were supposed to do wonders for your health - but how healthy can it be?
It was perhaps no surprise to see Don Coscarelli's name in the credits to Dead Night, as an executive producer, for there was a definite tonal comparison to be made between it and his Phantasm movies, horrors that seemed to make more sense to their creators than anyone watching them. With the original Phantasm, and to an extent in the rest of the series, the fans were there because of that curious mood and arrangement, but this little item was not so lucky, and most viewers threw up their hands and said "forget it!" when faced with a plot that was frankly, all over the place and made no moves to give allowances to anyone who was trying to follow what the hell was going on.
Like the Coscarelli horrors, it did make a kind of sense on its own terms, but those terms were to mess with your head by throwing in a whole bunch of scenes that had, one supposed, something to do with one another even if that was unclear to everyone else. What appeared to be happening was that the family were there to improve the health of the cancer suffering father (AJ Bowen), who seemed remarkably chipper for a man supposedly at death's door, only somehow his wife (Brea Grant) ended up accused of killing them all by the police. That's not a spoiler, though by all rights it really should have been, but director Brad Baruh made a very strange narrative decision.
This was to show us the tabloid true crime show that was restaging the events in the official version of what happened, interspersing clips from the episode (hosted by Daniel Roebuck) with what was actually going on, for maximum muddying of the waters of coherence. Add to that the person who was driving this chaos forward was someone who we had seen in a commercial break, a political candidate named Leslie Bison, played by genre favourite Barbara Crampton who was obviously determined to enjoy herself regardless of what was occurring in the total mess around her. The family discover her in the snow, take her in worrying she may be injured, then are infuriated by her lack of manners and refusal to answer any pertinent questions, which means we don't get any answers either.
We don't know if this mystery woman is the candidate, who is promoting a moralist, conservative campaign, or if some entity has decided to appropriate her image to get in with the family, all the better to sacrifice them (or whatever). Even as this descends further into lunacy, its refusal to come clean and admit what it was trying to say was frustrating, though for the more adventurous horror fan there was a degree of interest in not being able to predict where this was heading next, with all the absurdity that went with that. When a witch, looking like the grandmother of the best friend, shows up to tell Grant to decapitate everyone she can then set their bodies on fire, you're either thinking, yeah, whatever you say, or have long since given up. Only Crampton appeared to have a handle on this, and rumours of post-production troubles would certainly explain why the whole affair had gotten away from Baruh, in the edit possibly, but also maybe as far back as the scripting stage. Music by Joseph Bishara.
[Studio Canal's DVD has a trailer and that's your lot for features.]