Take Back The Night is bold in one of the few ways that matters. It bends what you’d expect from a message movie into a genre film with a purpose. Until I saw the trailer, I wasn’t expecting much from the film. Then, I watched it and something just clicked with me. There has finally been a new way to show victimization inside of horror tropes.
Take Back The Night director Gia Elliot could have went in a number of ways. The days of straight-out exploitation pictures ala I Spit On Your Grave have come and gone. But, trying to make a weepy drama about the subject matter borders on Lifetime original TV-movie fare. So, where is the middle ground?
It’s all in the presentation. Watching some over powered woman or man defeat the odds is borderline cartoonish. Ground it to close to reality and it feels like yet another Mary Sue overcoming impossible odds. But, why not go up the middle? Make a story about a realistic victim responding to an attacker that manages to skirt the rules of the world they know.
Jane Doe is a new kind of heroine that Emma Fitzpatrick mines the best for the screen. Being familiar with Fitzpatrick from Before We Go and Bloodsucking Bastards, it was quite fascinating to catch back up with her work. The ability to move carefully along allusions to sexual assault and defeating a rape monster is a lot to undertake. But, she pulls it off with flying colors. I think a lot of that has to do with Fitzpatrick and the director having written the script.
The choice to give the principal roles to all females is quite interesting. In the modern era, certain segments of the viewing audience will flip out if you dare trespass into the narratives of others. However, what does it entail to speak of a monster attack when all main parts are female? Take Back The Night asks a lot of what we view as true horror.
But, horror exists within the boundaries of the terror we experience. Women experience horror differently than men, because their lives are different. Bela Lugosi used to be obsessed with how women viewed blood differently than men in film. For men, it was set dressing. But, women saw it as intertwined with living.
Take Back The Night is a movie about women feeding off each other and lifting each other up. Where no one gets to be pure, but they do enough to be good people. No one is perfect, but when the time comes you can make the choice to do what’s right and take power back. In an era where so many films are going melodramatic in this regard, Take Back The Night stays grounded. Even with the aforementioned sexual assault monster.
Emma Fitzpatrick leans so hard into what makes Jane Doe work, even in spite of that wonky third act. Off-balanced third acts are OK, hell The Batman features one too. Many will hate the fact that we move from a real story about sexual assault or however you want to read the metaphor and into a monster hunt. Even how they dispatch the monster has been met with eye rolls from some that have seen Take Back The Night.
However, I feel that’s wrong to do. We should applaud movies like this might not be perfect, but they’re using their narratives to tell the stories that certain aspects of genre fiction don’t get to visit. This is truly one of the best surprises of 2022.
You have many choices of films to watch at the theater or on-demand. Make sure you pick something as unique as Take Back The Night.