Fear the Night Review – Maggie Q can’t save a so-so home invasion thriller

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: July 24, 2023
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Fear the Night Review - Maggie Q can't save a so-so home invasion thriller
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Summary

Fear the Night often threatens to become the type of movie it’s trying to slyly subvert, but a solid Maggie Q performance and some fun-ish surprises help it along.

This review of Fear the Night (2023) does not contain spoilers.

Fear the Night is the kind of bad movie I like.

By that, I don’t mean that it’s so bad it becomes good ironically. I’m trying to be nice, here, after all. What I mean is it’s the kind of bad movie with legitimately redeeming qualities and interesting, albeit ultimately unsuccessful, execution.

And that’s fine. Bad movies are vital. They have important lessons to teach and work as a useful counterpoint for better ones. That, and it’s always nice to see Maggie Q in things.

Fear the Night review and plot summary

In Fear the Night, Neil LaBute’s take on the home invasion thriller, Maggie Q plays Tess, an alcoholic combat veteran who, mentally, never left Fallujah. She’s eking out a civilian existence teaching a defense class – “I’m Miyagi with tits,” she quips at one point to an agog suburban woman – but sees danger and conspiracy everywhere she goes and has a tendency to run right at it.

Case in point, when some local rednecks in a convenience store throw sexist abuse in the direction of Tess’s sister Beth (Kat Foster) and their friends Mia (Gia Crovatin) and Esther (Kirstin Leigh), Tess intervenes. The resulting argument – a hilariously clunky exposition dump in the guise of a stolen valor accusation – ends with Tess keying the pickup truck outside.

When that same pickup pulls up outside the rural desert homestead where Beth has arranged their younger sister Rose’s (Highdee Kuan) bachelorette party, a long night ensues. The men aren’t after revenge on Tess – though that’s a bonus – but instead a cache of drug money that is being housed in the attic, stashed by the meth-dealing caretakers of the property. And they’d rather not leave any witnesses to the theft behind.

If this premise sounds aggressively run-of-the-mill, that’s pretty much the point. When Tess understandably takes charge of the airhead revelers and the stripper-cum-chef (KeiLyn Durrel Jones) Beth hired to handle the catering and entertainment, the movie deliberately becomes very silly, a surprisingly gory send-up of similar flicks that makes fun of the screechy archetypes who’re usually the victims and the idiot henchmen who play the villain. Nobody fares well.

Is Fear the Night good or bad?

The problem with Fear the Night is that it isn’t subversive enough. Its comedic moments are too few and far between, its deaths are nasty without being enjoyably schlocky, and the action doesn’t characterize Tess as the kind of badass the script and her unflappable demeanor keep insisting she is.

It’s also deliberately provocative in a way that seems poorly thought-out. Sensitive types will be furious, but then again, they always are – for everyone else, though, the frequent threats of sexual violence and the smattering of racism will be tediously try-hard since it isn’t in service to a broader point or more incisive critique. A lot of the movie is like that.

A moment that turns a rape threat on its head in the silliest way possible, and a late scene that trivializes Tess’s addiction, are the worst offenders, and where the movie threatens to become exactly the thing it’s ostensibly making fun of.

Is Fear the Night worth watching?

Let’s be frank here – Fear the Night is almost exclusively a vehicle for Maggie Q to do Maggie Q stuff, and I can confirm she does. There are some pleasures beyond that, including stylish title cards that rack up the tension by ticking away the hours of the night, but nothing to really write home about.

It’s fine as an odd, slightly misguided genre thriller with a sturdy female lead, though, and those looking for a laidback watch along those lines will find enough here to tide them over for 90 minutes.

What did you think of Fear the Night? Comment below.


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