Soldier Ray Marrow (Zane Holtz) returns home after active duty in Syria when his wife is killed in a car accident. Meanwhile, 5-year-old son Lawrence Marrow (Azhy Robertson), who survived the accident, gets post-traumatic stress disorder and it begins to manifest in strange ways. The boy begins to show a supernatural knowledge of the disappearance of a young woman, causing Ray to be the target of a local gangster.
The film begins sad and slow, building characters and forming a somewhat complex plot around a strange, small town. The atmosphere is somber, the score depressing, the story saddening. This is not necessarily a negative, but the tone set in the opening act is definitely one that foreshadows a bleak, morbid tale about to unfold. While marketed as a mystery/thriller, I found it more dramatic in nature, with Ray and Lawrence and their relationship the cornerstone of the film—which is unfortunate as they don’t have much chemistry on screen, just strained relations. Ray is a military man returning from active duty to take over the role of the parent after the death of his wife. His grief, stern-soldier demeanor and seeming lack of experience—or compassion—in raising his own kid makes him (to me) not an easy character to connect with. Lawrence is meant to be shy and conservative to the point of being socially awkward. This doesn’t help him much once the duo return to Ray’s hometown; a place Lawrence has never been yet where is “powers” seemingly manifest.
The second act is no better than the first—we plod along slowly, dissecting the strangest of tales. It’s a bizarre, confusing story that unfolds in a discombobulating way. The death of a popular cheerleader, July, years before haunts the town’s memory and with Ray and Lawrence returning and Lawrence apparently sharing the girls’ memories, the town goes into a tailspin, with accusations, aggravations, threats, and religious revelations. The setting is very backwater, as are most of the characters. More depressing score, more questionable plot, more uninteresting characters; more but less. It’s unfortunately tiresome to a fault. The cast is supposed to be seasoned, but the interactions and dialogue are indie at best, B at worst. The mythos of the scar and the boy’s abilities were so random and eye-rolling that it made me near give up on the film. Perhaps there is some kind of cultural connection to small-town Americana that I was totally missing while watching the film, but there was really very little that I found entertaining, if anything. I disliked the entire conservative, religious, judgemental nature of the town…but perhaps I was supposed to—perhaps it was my complete disconnection to and distaste for the culture that prevented me from appreciating the directorial vision here…or perhaps it was the film.
The film picks up a bit (halleluiah) in the last act, revealing the antagonists and building to a climax of what was a very anticlimactic film. The twists we see coming a long way off and by this point in the film, I had—unfortunately—lost all interest, having nothing invested in any of the characters. It failed as a thriller as it wasn’t thrilling, though I can’t say it wasn’t a mystery as I’m still trying to figure out how having a birthmark supposedly gives you magical powers. Thanks for reading and as always, stay sordid Beyond the Night is set for release early 2019.
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