Neil LaBute is not the filmmaker one would expect to make a home invasion thriller. But then Fear the Night is not an ordinary home invasion thriller. LaBute, a filmmaker and playwright who has explored the coarse dynamic between men and women with In the Company of Men, The Shape of Things, and others, takes this theme to a more violent level. But this time the guys have decided to mix it up with the wrong lady, because that lady is Maggie Q and she is never a shrinking violet.
Maggie Q, the only thing more intimidating than her beauty is the way she can whup your ass. In Fear the Night she plays Iraqi war veteran Tes, who along with seven other women are on their way to a bachelorette party at a farmhouse in the California hills. That party is for Tes’ sister Rose (Highdee Kuan), while their other sister Beth (Kat Foster) is along, too. It’s clear that Beth and Tes have some heat between them. The tension is thick, and every comment is laced with years of pent up anger and resentment. Tes is a quiet, sullen sort, and certainly not the outgoing party animal the other ladies are.
On the way, the ladies stop at a convenience store where they are cat called by a handful of disrespectful local dudes. Tes ain’t havin’ it. She humiliates their leader by comparing their military experience, putting him in his place quickly. Weak men don’t like being embarrassed in front of other men. We know this won’t be the last we see of them, especially when Tes keys their car on the way out.
The pre-wedding bash starts off quickly with a chef/stripper showing off his wares. But moments after Tes, Rose, and Beth try to iron out their communication problems, an arrow goes flying into the house and kills one of the women on the spot. Under terror by a truckload of masked strangers seeking a hidden treasure, it’s up to Tes to use her skills to assess the situation and neutralize the threat with extreme prejudice.
Fear the Night is pretty basic as a home invasion flick. The kills are sudden but unsurprising, with the characters you expect to die getting exactly what you thought. Y’know, the one who questions every plan that Tes has to survive? She’s definitely gonna eat arrow real soon. One thing that LaBute does well is establish that each woman has a different idea for how to survive, and something to contribute to make that happen. While all are initially wary of Tes, largely due to control freak Beth’s influence, ultimately they band together to fight back against their male attackers. The movie’s focus is on the relationship between these women when pushed to the bring by adversity.
LaBute breaks the action down into segments as different parts of the plan unfold. It’s a nifty way of keeping things moving, especially since this isn’t exactly a fighting tour de force Maggie Q does what she does best, which is be one of the most credible ass-kickers on the screen. We relish watching Tes pick these douchey guys apart, and it isn’t even really a contest. Nor should it be. While the final fight could’ve been more competitive, I don’t think it would’ve served the movie well. By the time of the bloody conclusion we just want to see these men brutalized and that’s what we are happily served up.
In a way, Fear the Night is an extreme take on LaBute’s career-long conversation about the terrible way men treat women. In this case, these toxic bros decide they need to slaughter these beautiful women they could never ever be with, rather than simply talking to them which would’ve prevented all of this violence. As is so often the case, Maggie Q is the best reason to watch, putting on a commanding effort as the only one who refuses to give in to fear. When the movie starts with a blood-drenched Tes walking alone along a highway, the gory aftermatch of the bloodshed to come, we know Maggie Q is going to deliver the goods and she doesn’t disappoint.
Fear the Night opens on July 21st.