First Look Review - AS NIGHT COMES

A new pupil falls in with a notorious gang at his new high school.


Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Richard Zelniker

Starring: Myko Olivier, Luke Baines, Evanne Friedmann, Stacia Hitt




"As Night Comes crackles with adolescent urgency and the simmering frustrations of teenage alienation. It's urban alienation and adolescent ennui that interests As Night Comes; all of which it relates with faithful, illicit menace."


Writer/Director Richard Zelniker’s As Night Comes crackles with adolescent urgency and the simmering frustrations of teenage alienation. Having recently moved across the country to L.A., Sean (Myko Olivier) is an outsider, a small fish unable to negotiate the strong and deadly currents of his inner city high school, until the tide washes him toward the shark-like Ricky (Luke Baines). Being the king of the high school’s emo tribe, Ricky has a social cache that Sean can only dream of, and he soon falls under Ricky’s charismatic spell. Our Ricky has a chip on his shoulder, though. A bitterness not only towards the unspeakable jocks who pick on his black clad bunch of buds, but the adult world too, who ‘never think about new generations’, and for whom Ricky demands ‘extreme action to end their corruption’. What are you rebelling against, Ricky? What ya got?!
This teenage Tyler Durden and his burgeoning cult of kohl-eyed acolytes idly chat about taking revenge on their so-unfair society of canteen hierarchies and censorious adults, spending their evenings drinking and crashing parties, and keying neighbours’ cars. Their adolescent angst builds up a full head of steam (and hair products) on the rather sweetly named ‘Mischief Night’ - an evening that Wikipedia describes as ‘an informal holiday on which children and teens engage in pranks and minor vandalism’. New to me too, but then I’m a square, man - far removed from the sort of raw teenage energy that As Night Comes bristles with.
Like its juvenile protagonists, the film is restless and jittery, pulsing with EDM, the camera skittering to keep up with its cast, who are always running, shouting or up to no good. With his face painted as a skull for most of the running time, Baines plays Ricky with an alabaster menace, his illicit allure a beacon for the ruined Sean. And while Zelniker and Ryan Koehn’s screenplay captures the sexy danger of getting up to no good as a teen, there is also a crucial poignancy to the proceedings, a sense of wasted, misplaced fury: in your teenage years, you have no idea of the infinite ways in which your life will expand and how your character will yet evolve. Of course, this blissful obliviousness gives adolescence its na├»ve fearlessness and its romanticism, but, in these sorts of films, it can also lead to tragedy. Like watching Romeo and Juliet (the most misunderstood play of all time, having nothing to do with love, and everything to do with fleeting infatuation) world weary adults will see the immature anger of Ricky and Sean for what it is; a phase that will lead to terrible consequences. For all his talk of revolution, Ricky’s Mischief Night exploits basically amount to him and his goth pals beating the snot out of the jocks and pranking them in increasingly gruesome, but essentially childish, ways (the pouring of blood into a rich kid’s pool is a neat reversal of poor Carrie White’s fate; now there was a kid who know how to enact revenge…). These are the cross state cousins of Mean Creek kids, their nihilism borne of boredom and lack of imagination. Ricky has all the righteous anger of the rebellious, but none of the insight or control to do anything purposeful with it.
While As Night Comes nails the urgent desperation of its adolescent characters, its portrayal of adults doesn’t have the same cutting authenticity. The adults here are one dimensional, drunk and/or ineffectual and as such, don’t really provide a convincing opposition to Ricky’s lunacy (except for a scene involving a parent revealed in flashback towards the end which deftly explains Sean’s obligation), and rob the film of some necessary gravity. This is especially evident in the film’s second half, where the fizzing threat of the first act tips over into a twice as rowdy, but not quite as effective, run of violence. Perhaps the representation of adults as seedy and useless is as they are seen through the gangs’ eyes, and is further evidence of this film’s sharp focus on teenage kicks and forceful cliques. It's urban alienation and adolescent ennui that interests As Night Comes; all of which it relates with faithful, illicit menace.




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