Monday, October 18, 2021

2021 Salem Horror Fest Review: TAKE BACK THE NIGHT

 by Michelle Swope

Gia Elliot is a writer and director whose first feature film, Take Back the Night, is a highly impressive, accurate as hell study of what it’s like to be a woman in today’s world. Elliot is also known for the TV series How Not To (2015), as well as the short film Go (2012).

Take Back the Night follows a woman named Jane Doe, who is an artist and is well known on social media. Jane has an arrest record and a history of substance abuse and mental health issues, just like her late mother, who was also an artist. These pieces of her background will come back to haunt her, much like they would for any woman. Emma Fitzpatrick (The Social Network, The Collection) gives an extraordinary performance as Jane, who is extremely relatable and cool, but also struggling.

One night, after attending a wild party, Jane is attacked while walking down a dark alley alone trying to get home. She doesn’t get a good look at her attacker, but it appears to be more of a dark presence than human. Bloody and disoriented, Jane ends up in a hospital emergency room, under bright lights, being questioned by a detective, played by Jennifer Lafleur, who thinks Jane’s story is suspicious. When the detective looks into Jane’s background, she finds her story about her attacker even more questionable.

Angela Gulner (Binge, Glow) plays Jane Doe’s sister, known only as The Sister, who wants to help Jane, but doesn’t approve of her lifestyle, despite the fact that she only appears to have her life together and struggles with some of the same issues as Jane.
Fitzpatrick’s Jane Doe clearly represents all women and what we experience on a daily basis, simply for existing. If something bad happens to you, it has to be because of something you did; you wore the wrong clothes, went out at night alone, or have suffered from mental illness. Because the detective working on Jane’s case is a woman, Take Back the Night exposes another harsh reality women are faced with; it isn’t just men who don’t believe women; women don’t believe women.

While the detective is busy looking into Jane’s background instead of trying to find her attacker, Jane decides she has no choice but to seek out who or what is apparently still stalking her. When Jane finds several stories of similar attacks on women online, she realizes that not only does she have a credible, shared experience with other women, but that there might be a supernatural element to her brutal attack.

Take Back the Night becomes increasingly frenetic when Jane begins stalking her stalker and filming it to show her online followers. The cinematography illuminates Jane’s experience with expert lighting choices that alternate between dark, nighttime scenes of Jane being attacked and Jane in the hospital under intrusively, vivid lights being examined, both mentally and physically.
Fitzpatrick’s powerful performance as Jane Doe is incredibly poignant and will resonate with a lot of women. Ultimately, the dark presence that is terrorizing Jane represents not just men, but the world around us. With Take Back the Night, Gia Elliot masterfully delivers a fierce message in the form of a mesmerizing, fever dream horror movie: Believe women.

The virtual edition of the Salem Horror Fest runs October 22 - 31. 

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