Gone in the Night, 2022.
Co-written and Directed by Eli Horowitz.
Starring Winona Ryder, Dermot Mulroney, John Gallagher Jr, Owen Teague, and Brianne Tju.
Upon arriving at a remote cabin in the redwoods, Kath and her boyfriend find a mysterious younger couple already there.
A seemingly typical cabin-in-the-woods romp becomes something different both for better and worse in Eli Horowitz’s feature debut Gone in the Night, an intriguing if also somewhat clumsy thriller.
Kath (Winona Ryder) and her boyfriend Max (John Gallagher, Jr.) head off to a remote cabin getaway for the weekend, only to find a young couple already there, the Airbnb seemingly having been double-booked.
With spotty phone reception and no hotels for miles – because of course! – Kath and Max beg the standoffish Al (Owen Teague) and more welcoming Greta (Brianne Tju) to let them stay for the night, which they do. But after a night of getting to know each other, Kath blearily wakes up the next day to find Max and Greta gone, with a distraught Al claiming that they hooked up and ran away together. Such begins Kath’s quest to get to the bottom of her very sudden breakup.
Gone in the Night is a genre film the precise particulars of which are best left unspoiled, yet its more heightened elements are buffeted by a mildly playful examination of generational divide. From the couples’ opening hangout, the schism is clear; the four trade not-so-subtle barbs that passive-aggressively dig away at the other side’s associated stereotypes.
Kath is, after all, a Gen X-er desperately seeking greater excitement in her life, hence why she’s shacked up with the noticeably younger and more adventurous Max; an affable yet unabashedly pretentious older millennial. Both of them seem like cliches to the considerably younger Al and Greta, though, card-carrying Gen-Zers as they are who clearly see their fellow guests’ personalities and behaviours as corny. It works both ways, of course, the salient point being that there’s a clear experiential wedge between these parties.
This helps generate a slyly ominous vibe from the jump, after which Horowitz’s film tunes into some more surprising rhythms. Once Max and Greta have disappeared, the narrative structure shifts to adopt the form of a jigsaw puzzle, slotting in flashbacks and alternate perspectives of scenes to piece together the truth of the matter.
The result is an interesting and well-acted film that can’t quite build to a fully satisfying payoff. The non-linear unspooling of information feels like an attempt to disguise some of the more convoluted storytelling on offer, but even then it’s incredibly obvious where things are going, and so audiences might end up feeling a few too many steps ahead of Kath.
Horowitz and co-writer Matthew Derby become especially unstuck in the third act, which hurls a few too many, too-silly plot twists at the viewer. There’s an amusing scuzziness to this throughline, for sure, but it’s at odds with the more restrained – and flat-out better – first two acts.
Thankfully the small cast does their best with the uneven material regardless. Winona Ryder is perfect as the fed up middle-aged woman wracked with existential angst and coming to appreciate the virtue of some damn peace and quiet.
John Gallagher, Jr. is meanwhile well-cast as her youthful, pompous partner, Owen Teague’s bug-eyed facial expressions make Al a figure of immediate distrust, and Brianne Tju brings sufficient moxie as Greta, the most volatile and unpredictable member of the quartet. Dermot Mulroney is also a hoot as the owner of the cabin, who has easy-going chemistry with Ryder throughout.
All in all it’s tough to get much worked up about a modest thriller that’s decently acted and sufficiently compelling for its first two thirds before sputtering out at the finish, even if it’s clear that with some refinements Horowitz’s film might’ve found a more nimble synthesis of schlocky thrills and social commentary.
A low-key, unconventional take on a familiar subgenre, Gone in the Night is upheld by the solid work of a decent cast even as it slides into excess silliness in act three.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.