The Movie Waffler Vashon Island Film Festival 2022 Review - 1-800-HOT-NITE | The Movie Waffler

Vashon Island Film Festival 2022 Review - 1-800-HOT-NITE

1-800-hot-nite review
While fleeing the police and social services, a young boy bonds with a phone sex worker.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Nick Richey

Starring: Dallas Dupree Young, Ava Richey, Gerrison Machado, Mylen Bradford, Brent Bailey, Kimleigh Smith

1-800-hot-nite poster

Writer/director Nick Richey's debut feature, 2019's Low Low, was a coming-of-age story centred on a quartet of working class teenage girls facing an uncertain adulthood. His follow-up, 1-800-Hot-Nite sees him transfer his attention to a trio of 13-year-old boys with an equally cloudy future. But for Tommy (Dallas Dupree Young), O'Neill (Garrison Machado) and Steve (Mylen Bradford), it's all about living for the moment and making the most of their troubled situations.

1-800-hot-nite review

All three boys have tough home lives. O'Neill is regularly beaten by his father, while his cousin Steve is staying with him because his own home life is ambiguously unsettled. Tommy dotes on his drug dealing father (DaJuan Johnson) but hates his stepmom (Nicole Steinwedell). Stealing the latter's credit card, Tommy takes his mates to a nearby phone booth and calls the phone sex line that gives the movie its title. Ava (Ava Richey), the woman on the other end, happily takes the credit card details, racking up a dollar per minute of dirty talk until she realises that she's speaking with a group of kids.

1-800-hot-nite review

When the cops bust into Tommy's home and arrest his dad, he flees into the night with a police officer (Brent Bailey) and Social Services worker (Kimleigh Smith) in pursuit. The narrative that follows takes its cues from those 1980s movies like After Hours, Into the Night and Something Wild, where women from the wrong side of the tracks showed uptight young men what they were missing out on life. Here the woman is mostly heard rather than seen as Tommy calls Ava at several points during the night, not knowing who else to talk to. Over the course of the night Ava develops a maternal bond with the troubled boy.

Of course, Tommy and his pals find themselves in various scrapes along the way. These range from a romantic interlude with some girls from their school to a terrifying scene in which Tommy becomes trapped inside a house with three creepy men and their pet snake. Richey does an impressive job of veering between such disparate scenes without ever giving us tonal whiplash. His is a film that reminds us that childhood is often as scary as it is joyous.

1-800-hot-nite review

It's the young central trio who keep us engaged, with Young, Machado and Bradford never less than convincing as good friends. Young is particularly impressive as the film's lead, pulling off a difficult mix of street smarts and wide-eyed innocence. But for all the good work of the cast, the script never quite presents us with anything particularly original. More cynical viewers will struggle with the film's doe-eyed view of American authority figures, with the police and social services presented in atypically angelic fashion.

1-800-Hot-Nite played at the Vashon Island Film Festival.

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