Nightlight (2015) *1/2
D: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods
C: Shelby Young, Chloe Bridges, Mitch Hewer, Carter Jenkins, Taylor Murphy, Kyle Fain
Plot Synopsis: Undeterred by news of a classmate's recent suicide, five teens gather in a dark and legendary woodland for an evening of scary fun and awaken a demonic presence that seizes upon their deepest fears.
Review: In Nightlight, a group of friends gather in a wooded area to play games, to mess around with the supernatural. For one member of the group, an outcast friend (named Ethan) took their own life in these woods. As the night progresses and something supernatural starts to pick off the friends, it becomes apparent that Ethan is seeking retribution against the group, blaming them for his suicide. Ethan wants to make the group feel the anguish he felt inside.
Nightlight is told from the point of view of the flashlights that the kids carry with them during this outing in a found footage style. The problem is that it's a gimmick that's being utilized vs something that's organic to the story. This material would've been better served in a traditional narrative.
This is Ethan's story, yet the focus is on everyone else, including inanimate objects such as flashlights. A traditional narrative could've address such issues as: Why does Ethan feel the way that he does towards this group? Why does he blame them for his suicide? Why does he see violence as the answer? However, the character of Ethan is regulated to two scenes, one at the beginning and one at end of the film.
Despite an array of fundamental flaws, there's some good ingredients here. Nightlight employs a cast of bright young talent, especially Carter Jenkins who stands out in a small role. Both the cinematography & editing are as competent as you can expect, given the presentation. The premise, while familiar, could've served as a commentary on bullying, peer pressure, acceptance and, finally, what makes someone turn to violence, but like the premise, it's all wasted on style vs substance.
Since the flashlights are what's at the forefront, POV camera work is employed throughout. The POV camera work makes Nightlight more about the scenario vs the characters. Equal consideration has to be given to both since characters & their motivations are what's going to drive a scenario forward. This is a film that's in service of technique and style vs storytelling. [R] 85 minutes.
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