'Nightlight': Film Review

Without teenagers acting stupidly, where would mediocre horror films like this be?

A group of teenagers venture into cursed woods at night for an evening of fun and games that turns out to be anything but.

When oh when will our nation's teenagers learn that it's never a good idea to venture into the woods at night?

If horror filmmakers have their way, never, as evidenced by Scott Beck and the ironically named Bryan Woods' low-budget genre exercise Nightlight in which a group of five plucky teens and a dog journey into the forest for fun and games.

"I heard that this forest is a great place for blow jobs … and ghosts," one of the men comments.

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The latter certainly come into play in this not quite found-footage film — more on that later — since the forest in question is a frequent destination for troubled youths. Indeed, one of the group's classmates, seen briefly in a confessional video before the main proceedings begin, recently killed himself in these very woods.

But that doesn't deter the fun-loving quintet, which includes the sensitive Robin (Shelby Young), who has been lured there by the prospect of getting closer to her crush, Ben (Mitch Hewer). They proceed to engage in such amusing activities as playing chicken with a train and that old chestnut Truth or Dare.

"Whatever this game is, I'm sure it would be much more fun with beer," one of them points out, which is a sentiment that could be well applied to watching the film.

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It isn't long, of course, before bad things begin to happen, with an unseen demonic presence wreaking havoc, possessing several of the characters and reducing others to a catatonic state. Most of the action consists of the teens running frantically through the woods, although there are brief interludes set in a dank cave and an abandoned church. The only character who displays a lick of common sense is, not surprisingly, the dog, who senses that something is up long before anybody else.

It's all very familiar in that Blair Witch kind of way, with neither the characters nor situations proving remotely interesting. The filmmakers' chief innovation is to present the action from the perspective of a single flashlight. But while cinematographer Andrew M. Davis displays undeniable inventiveness working within such formal constraints, it inevitably reduces the visuals to a shaky-cam mess that is as hard on the eyes as the tiresomely cliched story is on the brain.

Production: Herrick Entertainment
Cast: Shelby Young, Chloe Bridges, Mitch Hewer, Taylor Murphy, Carter Jenkins
Directors/screenwriters: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods
Producers: Norton Herrick, Michael London, Darren Brandl, Janice Williams
Executive producers: Gregory Plotkin, Kelly Mullen, Peter D. Graves, Norton Herrick
Director of photography: Andrew M. Davis
Production designer: Christine Youngstrom
Editor: Russell Andrew
Costume designer: Barbara Nelson
Casting: Sunday Boling, Meg Morman

Rated R, 84 min.