REVIEW: Nite Nite
– By Steven Hickey
Some horror tropes will never die. The story of ‘the babysitter putting her young charge to bed while ignoring the child’s claims that something sinister lurks within the house’ is right up there with ‘young couple breaks down on an isolated rural road’ or ‘group of horny teens get away from it all in a cabin in the woods’ as one of the top archetypal horror scenarios.
It’s also the device that Chad Meisenheimer relies on for his short (and at less than 4mins I do mean short) film Nite Nite. However, rather than ignore the throwback feel of the plot, Meisenheimer embraces it, presenting the film as a piece of Eighties horror cinema, setting his creepy little piece in 1985… and it proves to be an inspired choice.
With a sinister synth soundtrack and retro charm, Nite Nite proves to be a charmingly engaging surprise. A two-header between a baby sitter (Tommie Vegas) and young boy (Brady Bond), the story unfolds within a single setting – the lad’s bedroom – and while the plot doesn’t offer much in the way of surprises, it gets by on the strong performances of its leads. Vegas plays her role to perfection, conveying the exasperated sarcasm of a teen without ever overdoing it and making her character unlikeable, while Bond shows exceptional restraint and talent for his tender years.
That the script feels natural as it tells its familiar story also works in the actors’ favour. It is this simplistic and perhaps well-worn nature of the story that is both the film’s biggest strength and worst weakness. For while familiarity draws its audience in, putting them on edge as they wait for the trap to snap shut, it also ensures that, while very polished, Nite Nite doesn’t make as big an impression as it could have. A twist ending could have worked very well in this context, as the story we get (while satisfying enough) feels a little safe. I get that the story remains somewhat old-fashioned to reflect the aesthetic of Meisenheimer’s film, but even so, it does prevent Nite Nite from standing out as much as it might have.
Speaking of the aesthetic, director of photography Niklas Berggren provides the film with a nice Eighties feel, but I would have liked to see the film take a cue from that and perhaps include some Eighties fashion in the costumes, maybe some retro toys in the boy’s bedroom and some good old-fashioned period slang terms to really drive it home.
Nevertheless at such a brief runtime the film remains inoffensive enough, and with a cool, creepy ‘monster moment’, assured direction, a pair of superb leads, a surprisingly chilling conclusion and a delightful throwback feel, it is one that is well worth checking out.