I enjoy Bob Clark's work as a director. I cannot imagine the holiday season without A Christmas Story (1983) and Black Christmas (1974). Then there's Porky's (1982) which is the American Pie of my generation. So I shivered with antici- (say it!) -pation when I unearthed another Bob Clark film on Netflix with a screenplay by Alan Ormsby who also wrote Deranged (1974), another of my cult favorites. Add Tom Savini as the make up artist and I settled into my seat for an Saturday afternoon horror feast.
So...how does Dead of Night measure up? Well, it's hardly a classic but it does have some good things going for it. The story revolves around Andy Brooks, a soldier who is killed in Vietnam and unexpectedly returns home as one of the undead. So far so good.
Richard Backus is an interesting "zombie Andy." There is no flesh rotting or shambling in Dead of Night. Instead we have an undead soldier who is slightly catatonic yet menacing. He has a thirst for murder but hasn't developed much of an appetite for flesh munching. It's a subtle performance but it works in this film. The only confusing thing is that he also has a thirst for blood which he neatly injects into his veins like a junkie. This makes him a fangless vampire so it's hard to pin down exactly what kind of creature he actually is. The film never tells us directly but this works in it's favor, adding an element of mystery to the plot.
Veteran character actors John Marley and Lynn Carlin are Andy's parents, Charles and Christine, who play the stereotypical roles of the angry father and doting mother. They fill their roles well and we get the added bonus that Andy's mom has a 1970's polyester addiction. The plaid shirt she wears in her opening scene with the white oversized collar and cuffs is merely one of many terrible fashion choices she wears throughout the film. Now that's entertainment! As a side note, Andy's sister is played by Anya Ormsby, Alan Ormsby's first wife.
Dead of Night is nearly bloodless but this is intentional because the film focuses equally on the comings and goings of Andy as much as it does the disintegration of his all-American family. It's part horror, part family drama and it maintains a good balance between the two. This one is definitely worth your time. It's a "slow scare" that keeps the tension going throughout the film.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.