It never occurred to me until I was watching “Night Demons” that I don’t know what gunfire actually sounds like. I’ve heard shotguns and rifles, sure, but I’ve never once actually been standing near someone firing any kind of automatic weapon.
The closest I’ve ever been to that kind of weaponry is on film.
Watching yet another film on the horrors of Vietnam will have that effect on some people. Much the way most movies featuring a submarine eventually will talk about “crush depth,” this film tends to play out a lot of the same beats as other films about the Vietnam War.
You’ve got the soldiers over-using the word “gooks.” You’ve got the big attack, where most of the squad is wiped out. You’ve got the guy who dies in slow motion. The friendly fire. The long hike where the team could be ambushed at any second. You’ve got the guy who dies horribly. The soldier who slowly cracks under the pressure.
“Night Demons” has all these things, and it packs into a 10-minute space.
While it’s unfortunate that we’ve seen much of this before, it’s impressive how well crafted this low-budget film actually is. The bullet hits, the physical damage to the soldiers, and a fairly massive explosion all are pulled off with the skill of a film with ten or one hundred times its budget.
The acting, while not spectacular, is at least convincing. Even more interesting is the fact that, for once, the soldiers all look like the scared kids that many in Vietnam truly were, rather than 30-year-old actors attempting to play teenagers and 20-somethings.
The score for the film, written by Fabrizio Castania, is quite excellent, and effectively sets the mood.
And the story, while often cliched, works very hard to add an extra layer of depth by the time the credits roll.
“You have never really lived until you’ve almost died,” intones a voice-over at the head of the film, and this movie doesn’t pull any punches as it tries to prove the thesis of its opening line.