By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***** out of *****.
Lean, beautiful and mysterious, Before the Night is Over (2020) is a masterful return to horror for director Richard Griffin. Stylistically reminiscent of such generally single-setting efforts from the 1960’s-70’s such as Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace (1963) and Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977), the 73-minute film is also admirable for its subtlety and restraint. This is immediately evident in the wordless five-minute opening sequence of the picture. In this evocative and brilliantly rendered bit, a wonderfully mood-setting musical composition, facial expressions and hand gestures potently speak all that needs to be said. Griffin also ends the production on an equally quiet and poetic note. Such touches make for incredibly effective bookends to an exercise that is eloquent, classy and classic in both its narrative and in its approach. It also calls to mind the commencing section of Griffin’s equally magnificent Long Night in a Dead City (2017). Such instances are made evermore breathtaking by John Mosetich’s gorgeous, colorful, awe-inspiring cinematography.
Complimented by a superbly penned script from co-authors Griffin and Lenny Schwartz, which perfectly balances character-focus and buildup, Griffin tells the tale of Samantha (in a captivating portrayal from Samantha Acampora). Suffering from the loss of her parents, she becomes a maid at a bordello run by her aunt, Ms. Blanche DeWolfe (in a wonderful enactment by Lee Rush). Immediately intrigued by the erotically charged nature of the place, she finds herself slowly on the trail of a secret. It is one which has led before to death and, Samantha soon finds, will do so again.
With this intriguing premise, Griffin erects a surreal tour-de-force. It is one which is utilized as well in its credibly etched dramatic sequences as it does in its psychological thriller and slasher-on-the-loose instances. Griffin also keeps the project as tightly paced as possible. This is while giving his characters plenty of room to breathe and make themselves closely known to the audience. The third act also delivers quite a few twists that are genuinely surprising. Best of all, they never break the finely woven credibility or old-fashioned elegance Griffin has so delicately sewn into the endeavor. Such is just another sample of the top-notch craftsmanship that has gone into Griffin’s latest undertaking.
What also works is the equally deft turns given by Griffin’s performers. Bruce Church is exceptional as Ambrose. Jay Walker commands the screen as Mr. Wheatstraw. The same can be said of Terry Shea as Clay, Roberto Alexander as LaRue and Ricky Irizarry as Jameson. Victoria Paradis gives a terrific depiction of Ms. Olivia. Furthermore, Griffin’s editing is seamless.
Before the Night is Over (2020) is another winner for Griffin and The Reasonable Moving Picture Company. Reportedly made on a budget of $5,000, the feature is ambitious and hypnotic. This is while being economical and intimate. It is also deeply cinematic, while respecting the traditions of past big-screen excursions into fear. The movie also has Griffin’s unique stamp on every frame. The piece deftly addresses many of the ever-timely themes and notions from his previous creations. All of this is to grand consequence. In turn, Griffin has created a haunting and thoughtful symphony of sight and sound; a perfect storm of indelible imagery and directorial flair. Cinephiles and genre fanatics alike are destined to adore it. I know I did.