A Southern Gothic Tale
In his feature-length directorial debut, Rich Ragsdale and co-writers Mark Young (Wicked Blood, Southern Gothic) and Robert Sheppe (Ghost House 2) develop the framework for a southern gothic horror tale. The Long Night (2022) was initially titled The Coven, and producers kept the alternate title for international release in India, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.
The movie’s cast includes indie film star Scout Taylor-Compton (Ghost House, Edge of Insanity) as Grace Covington. It also stars actor and Versace model Nolan Gerard Funk (The Flight Attendant, Glee) as Jack Cabot and veteran supporting actor Jeff Fahey (Lost, Beckman) as Wayne. Deborah Kara Unger (Silent Hill, A Dark Truth) plays The Master.
The Long Night’s plot is simple. Grace (Taylor-Compton) grew up in a foster home and now is searching for her family. When contacted by an investigator, she and her boyfriend Jack (Funk) drive from New York City to an isolated plantation home in the Deep South. As they wait for their hosts, strange events unfold. Snakes invade, the car refuses to start, and the couple quickly discovers the plantation is home to a goat-head-shaped masked cult.
Yes, the script uses some well-worn, almost threadbare horror tropes. But if you have bought into the film’s premise, you can’t complain. Fragmented images combined with psychedelic sequences attempt to conjure an ominous atmosphere and, to a certain extent, succeeds. The images are undoubtedly curious – like a supernatural game of charades. There are some scenes of random brutal violence. However, it is difficult to discern whether these scenes reinforce the cult’s sinister intentions or are just for effect.
The film maintains a strong mystique. The backstory and explanation of imagery are minimal, which becomes a disadvantage as the movie progresses but there are a few surprises, expertly executed. The film’s structure is reasonably tight, relying on clearly designated chapters to propel the story forward. The pace is a bit slow, creating a sense of frustration rather than impending doom. Overall, The Long Night is somewhat anticlimactic, which is not necessarily a bad thing, just predictable.
There are a few missed opportunities throughout the film. The cast offers solid genre-embracing performances. The characters are tangible, but they lack sufficient complexity to warrant more than a small emotional investment.
An interesting, somewhat subtle theme emerges pitting urban vs. rural, New York vs. South Carolina, and the North vs. the South on a grander scale. Unfortunately, the writers abandon this motif at the Mason-Dixon Line. An unusual Jack tangent occurs when Grace and Jack visit his parents. If explored further, this relationship may have provided an explanation and depth to the annoying college boy stereotype.
The photography is strong – the work of Emmy Award-winning cinematographer Pierluigi Malavasi. Aerial drone photographic overview of the area is a unique addition and successfully emphasizes the isolation of the home. The eerie surrealist images are genuinely engaging and the deep shadows and night work sell the apocalyptic theme. Additionally, the creepy cult masks are almost pagan, implying an ancient evil, which is one of the film’s many special effects designed by Vincent Van Dyke Effects (Twin Peaks).
Produced by Sprockefeller Pictures and distributed by Well Go USA Entertainment. Ragsdale shot this supernatural horror tale in Charleston, South Carolina, where the isolated house and fragmented visuals create tension and dread.
Currently available on VOD, The Long Night is an enjoyable first feature film for Ragsdale, who has a strong music and soundscape development background. Add to the crew, tour de force composer Sheri Chung, and the music makes this an enjoyable film.
If the rain keeps you inside, grab the popcorn. And remember, it’s only 91-minutes long.
The Long Night (2022) Official Trailer