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Film Review: 3rd Night @ FrightFest 2017

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Premiering in the UK at this year’s FrightFest in London, 3rd Night is the directorial debut of Adam Graveley who also wrote, produced and edited the horror feature.

Credit: YouTube

The film, however, is a disaster from start to finish with a nonsensical plot, a lack of effective horror and some horrible acting.

3rd Night follows the young couple, Meagan (Jesse McGinn) and Jonathan (Robert Hartburn), who have just moved into a small house with an orchard in the Australian bush. Their attempt to escape the bustle of city life is disrupted early on though when their pet cat goes missing and cryptic notes begin to appear. All the while, a killer lurks around the house, waiting to strike on what might be a fatal third night in the couple’s new home. 

At least this is what the story is meant to be - as one of 3rd Night's biggest problems is its complete lack of focus. For a film of only 72 minutes in length, it’s surprising how much of it is spent on pointless characters and story elements that are not horror focussed at all. A pregnancy plotline, as well as some needless backstory for Bruce Denny's character of Cambo are just a couple of examples of wasted time in what becomes a drag of a film. There are also several plot points, such as one involving pigs, that we are led to believe will be important later, but are in fact never touched upon again.

The two lead characters of Meagan and Jonathan are horribly portrayed by Jesse McGinn and Robert Hartburn respectively. The line delivery is incredibly flat with the couple having no chemistry between them whatsoever, leaving every conversation feeling robotic and forced. This is partly down to some of the film's clunkier dialogue and confusing character writing. Arguments escalate out of nowhere, conversations have a very formulaic structure to them and on many occasions, characters make bizarre decisions without proper motivation.

There are also some very strange directing choices throughout 3rd Night. Every time the killer is outside the house spying on the couple, we are presented with this horrible, shaky, Dutch angle through a bush. The first time it's tolerable, but this shot is reused almost every time the killer is outside. There are also some more awkward angles that see the actors blocked from view entirely as well as some other lingering shots that seem to serve no purpose. In a film this short, every scene has to count which makes it hard to understand why we have extended sequences such as Meagan making coffee.

Unfortunately, the editing is no better both in terms of visuals and audio. Some poorly used slow motion, shots cut too soon, and a poor decision to have one scene drained of colour makes the film appear very amateur. The sound mixing is also badly handled with the film’s transitions from the soundtrack to silence being very abrupt. There are also some ill used sound effects littered throughout. 

There are glimmers of hope to be found in 3rd Night though. The way the story is chaptered each night at a time, and how this is explained at the end is clever. There is also a satisfying revelation in the film’s final moments that harkens back to some earlier dialogue, which at first seemed irrelevant. However, these short, enjoyable moments are nowhere near enough.

3rd Night is a severe letdown and is sure to be one of the least scary horror films you’ll see this year. Clunky writing, bad editing and some very poor performances leave the film a tensionless mess that you're best off avoiding.

3rd Night screened as part of FrightFest 2017's schedule. 

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