Nightlight Movie Review
Nightlight Movie Review Metadata
Part Blair Witch Project, part yellowbrickroad, shy loner Robin (Shelby Young) is invited by the cool kids, Ben (Mitch Hewer), Amelia (Taylor Murphy), Nia (Chloe Bridges), and Chris (Carter Jenkins), to play flashlight tag and other nighttime games deep in Covington Woods. The set up seems cool because who doesn’t love stumbling in the unfamiliar woods keenly aware it’s a favorite haunt – literally – of suicidal teens due to the dangerous precipice that you can’t see because it’s dark and you only have a flashlight. As the night wears on (and it does wear) the games feel more like a mean prank, and for no discernable reason than mean girls at play and jerks looking to get laid along for the ride, and if Robin could find a way out, she’d totally ditch and head home.
There is, of course, a backstory to Covington Woods: once you die there, your soul remains, and if you linger too long in the woods, you feel like throwing yourself off the nearest cliff. Or you go to sleep and die. It seems to be a toss-up. Regardless, you’re supposed to avoid the abandoned church, because it’s bad, and once you enter, all is lost.
Dire warnings are catnip to horny, thrill-seeking teens, and we don’t find out most of until until a quarter of the way through. The really unfortunate part is this information has to be pried from the characters.
This isn’t necessarily a “found footage” film. The story is related through the lens of flashlights, always on and pointed towards exactly where the characters shouldn’t go. I thought it was pretty clever and a nice change of pace from the ever omnipresent camera that no one ever gets tired of holding. The drawback, as with most found footage/POV films is the dialogue. My hang up will always be the dialogue, since it seems secondary to the plot. I would imagine the intent is to keep the chatter and conversation as natural as possible, which is exactly why it sounds scripted and stilted. Even the best improv dialogue sounds like steering or worse, veers so off track, circling back around to the actual story reminds you of informants wired by the FBI to trick mobsters into revealing where they dumped bodies.
There is surprisingly little blood throughout, and the tension comes more from the fear of someone twisting an ankle than the actual ghosts that supposedly haunt the woods. The sound is amazing for a movie filmed almost entirely in the woods, so for Saturday afternoon viewing, close the shades and crank up the volume.
Most of Nightlight is teen chatter, so it’s banal, and cutting, but not cutting edge. It doesn’t forward the story except when Chris manages to info dump the story of the Woods in between juvenile sex jokes. Movies whose synopsis begin with “five teens go into the woods …” generally don’t offer anything new to the genre, but it would be nice if someone tried for once.
Nightlight is currently available on select VOD platforms as well as DVD, and is rated R for language, sexual references, and violence.