By Phil Hall | August 31, 2009

There is a great film in the first half of Jordan Harris and Andrew Schrader’s “Fever Night”. Unfortunately, there is a not-so-great film occupying the second half of the same production.

The film’s set up is brilliant: three young would-be Satanists (Peter Tullio, Philip Marlatt, and Melanie Rose Wilson) head off into a dark, secluded forests to hold a warped ritual in praise of Mr. 666. The lady of the trio somehow gets run over by their car, leaving her unconscious. The men, who apparently didn’t bother to travel with cell phones, are unable to get their vehicle started and appear to be miles from assistance. A distant light at the far edge of the forest appears, and the journey to that light brings about no end of problems.

“Fever Night” (which is burdened with the unnecessary second title “Band of Satanic Outsiders”) has a great “Blair Witch”-style vibe going for it during its initial half, when the mysterious dark forest and its cacophony of unfamiliar provides an endless spook show that frays the calm of the two young men. Harris and Schrader do a killer job in framing this portion of the film with uncomfortably tight close-ups, and Tullio and Marlatt have a peerless chemistry where they play off each other in a constant exchange of agitation, fear, and acrimony.

However, the film veers wildly out of control in its second half when the forest’s evil is revealed. There is no point in giving away the secrets, except to say they provide an anemic anti-climax (and one sequence is thoroughly ruined with the repeated use of an obnoxious homophobic epithet). Harris and Schrader also make the mistake of substituting the Val Lewton-style suggestion of horror with an anvil approach of in-your-face violence (much of it created with none-too-convincing CGI effects).

This is the type of film where it is perfectly fine to walk out at the midway point. And that’s a shame, because Harris and Schrader were genuinely on track to create something truly special.

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