Thrillers are like the box-in-a-box gag gift. You open a box only to reveal another box, and you keep opening the box until you find the real gift. Making a good thriller is all about managing how much fun you have opening the endless stream of boxes.
Writer/director Jason Noto’s Beyond The Night opens with a young veteran Raymond (Zane Holtz) walking into a hospital room just in time for his wife Maisie’s (Caitlin Mehner) final living moments. Ray is now alone with their only son Lawrence (Azhy Robertson). Lawrence sports a rather noticeable birthmark covering half of his face. The two must leave the city and head back to Maisie’s small rural home for the funeral.
Upon arrival, Ray and Lawrence are greeted by Ray’s sister Caroline (Tammy Blanchard), who works as a hometown police officer and encourages Ray to be strong for his son. Ray’s service has kept him from being a fulltime father.
“…a flood of memories come up about a life Lawrence could never have experienced.”
Years ago, Ray and Maisie left the small town to start a family. Ray’s return conjures up mixed feelings. First, Ray scares the living hell into a girl for taking pictures of his son’s birthmark. Then there are those who impatiently wait for the two to return to the city.
As will all small towns, things are not as they seem. Several years ago, the small town was rocked by the disappearance of a young teen July Rain (Brenna Bialek). July’s father Bernie (Chance Kelly) has become hardened by his daughter’s disappearance and is involved in some shady dealings with some local dirtbags.
It should be noted that this is Lawrence’s first visit to his mother’s hometown. During the funeral, Lawrence begins to act out. At the wake, Lawrence starts talking to July’s mother Norma (Peggy J. Scott) about July. Thing is, July’s death preceded Lawrence’s birth and this pisses off Norma. Then Lawrence starts bringing up memories of the forest he used to play in years ago, but again, never been here before. Lawrence begins to recognize town locals, he could have never known. Soon a flood of memories come up about a life Lawrence could never have experienced.
Now we have a mystery. What’s up with Lawrence and could he be the key to solving July’s mysterious disappearance? Also, a revelation is made about the significance of his birthmark, that seems to come out of the blue, but after Googling it, there’s real folklore behind that birthmark in play.
“…a low-key thriller that I think plays better on paper than it does on screen.”
Beyond The Night is a low-key thriller that I think plays better on paper than it does on screen. The story about a potentially clairvoyant Lawrence is not performed as creepy or intriguing as it should be. I think we as the audience want to be scared or feel anxious from moment to moment.
Most of the thrills come around the consequences of Lawrence’s revelations and the notion that he is the key to solve the mystery. Which is good, but desperately needs more punch. There’s a moment when July’s father speaks to Lawrence as if he was his daughter and it just felt this was a missed opportunity to provide a boost of excitement.
That said, Beyond The Night is a solid film with a solid story, good acting, and beautifully shot. In the end, it felt like a good episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. A few shots of adrenaline during key reveals would have helped the final film out greatly.
Beyond The Night (2019) Written and directed by Jason Noto. Starring Zane Holtz, Tammy Blanchard, Chance Kelly, Neal Huff, Azhy Robertson.
7 out of 10 stars