What Lisa Marie Watching Last Night #221: Drawn Into the Night (dir by Bill McAdams, Jr.)

Last night, Erin and I started to watch a film called Drawn Into The Night on Tubi.  Erin abandoned the film after 10 minutes but I stayed for the whole thing!

Why Was I Watching It?

According to the film’s description on Tubi, the film was about a cop who goes undercover in a high school in order to investigate the disappearance of three cheerleaders.  I love film about undercover high school cops and I figured that Erin would enjoy critiquing whether or not the film was an accurate representation of the high school cheerleader experience.  Anyway, Erin stopped watching after 10 minutes but I stuck with the film because I feel guilty whenever I stop watching a movie before the end credits start.

After the film was finished, I did a little research and I discovered that Drawn Into The Night (which Tubi claimed was a 2022 release) was actually a heavily edited version of a 2010 film called A Lure: Teenage Fight Club.   Teenage Fight Club was a little over 90 minutes long.  Drawn Into The Night had a running time of 67 minutes.  Just judging from the reviews that I read of Teenage Fight Club, it would appear that a lot of nudity and excessive violence was edited out of the film that became Drawn Into The Night.  That’s fine by me.  I love a good thriller but I’ve grown a little bored with violence for the sake of violence.

What Was It About?

After three high school cheerleaders mysteriously disappear, a detective named Maggie (Jessica Sonneborn) goes undercover as a high school student.  She joins the school’s field hockey team and makes a quick frenemy out of spoiled Brittany (Augie Duke).  An invitation to a rave turns out to instead be an invitation to be forced to take part in a teenage fight club, where the fights are to the death!

What Worked?

The film was short.  That may sound like a back-handed compliment but, after sitting through countless films that rua over two hours despite not having enough story for 30 minutes, it was kind of nice to see a film that wrapped everything up in 67 minutes.  Of course, some of that is because this was a heavily edited version of a longer film but no matter.  It still worked!

The film had some nicely atmospheric shots of people running through the night, often being pursued by an inbred hillbilly.  Some of those scenes had a dream-like intensity to them.

Augie Duke gave a good performance as the hilariously self-centered Brittany.

What Did Not Work?

Because of the way the film was edited, there were several continuity errors.  One character, in particular, is seen in one location just to be show up in a totally different location one jump cut later.  I’m going to guess the original version of the film included a scene of her arriving at the different location.  In the edited version, she just appears to teleport from place to place.

Maggie going undercover would have been more interesting if not for the fact that all of the high school students already appeared to be in their 20s.  Despite the fact that three cheerleaders had mysteriously vanished just a few days previously, none of the other students at the school seemed to be the concerned about it.  At my high school, if someone popular was kidnapped, people definitely would have been talking about it.

The identity of the main villain seemed to come out of nowhere but I am, once again, going to assume that’s because of how this version of the film were edited down from the original version.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

One character has asthma and you better believe that I was cringing when she was trying to catch her breath while running away.

I did sneak out to a few all-night parties when I was in high school and I usually did ruthlessly critique the type of car my older friends drove so I could definitely relate to Brittany.  But I’m happy to say that I was never forced to take part in a teenage fight club.

Lessons Learned

When there’s a kidnapping spree going on, don’t accept invitations to parties in the middle of nowhere.

Film Review: Burning Kentucky (dir by Bethany Brooke Anderson)

Burning Kentucky, which I just finished watching on Prime, is a film that has its own unique vibe.  You’re either going to connect with this frequently surreal film or you’re not.  If you do connect with it, you’re going to be aware that, while the film has its narrative flaws, it also has moments of visual brilliance.  If you don’t connect with it, you’ll probably dismiss it as just being another pretentious revenge thriller.  Burning Kentucky currently has a rating of 4.1 over that imdb, not because it’s a bad film but because it’s just not a film for everyone.  It’s not a crowd pleaser but it we’ve learned anything recently it’s that crowds suck.

Burning Kentucky takes place in the hills of Harlan County, Kentucky.  We find ourselves observing two families.  One family lives in a shack and brews moonshine.  They eat whatever animals they catch in the wilderness and about the only thing that’s vaguely modern about them is the camera that their daughter, Aria (played, in her film debut, by Emilie Dhir), carries with her.  (And even that camera appears to be from the mid-20th century.)  Aria also narrates the film, musing about life and death.  In the country, she explains, people understand that death is a part of life.  Regardless of any sentimental feelings, everything dies.

The other family is headed by an man named Jaxson (John Pyper-Ferguson).  Jaxson is the country sheriff, so he’s a man of some importance.  However, it’s also obvious that he’s a man who has long been on a downward spiral.  He drinks too much and he spends most of his time cursing God and complaining about the local preacher, Abe (Andy Umberger).  Jaxson has two sons.  Wyatt (Nick McCallum) appears to be relatively stable.  Rule (Nathan Sutton), on the other hand, is a junkie who lives in a shack that he shares with Jolene (Augie Duke).  Jolene wants to be a singer.  She wants to get off drugs.  Rule, on the other hand, appears to be content to just slowly kill himself.

Whenever Wyatt can get away from his drunk father and his wasted brother, he spends his time with Aria.  They’ve been in love for several years, ever since the night that Aria discovered Wyatt trapped in one of the traps that her family had set around their land.  When we first see Aria and Wyatt together, they talk about how they met on the same night that they each lost their mother.

It takes a while to figure out just what exactly is going on in Burning Kentucky.  The deliberately paced first half of the film freely hops from the past to the present and then back again.  The camera glides over the misty mountains of Kentucky, stopping to linger on deserted houses and crumbling buildings.  Everything seems to be suspended in a state of permanent decay.  The wilderness appears to be both beautiful and threatening at the same time and the imagery, when combined with Aria’s narration, is often surreal.  The first half of the film plays out as if we’re watching a filmed dream.

Unfortunately, the second half of the film is a bit more conventional.  Once we finally discover who everyone is relative to everyone else and after we learn what happened in the past, the film settles down to become a standard revenge thriller, albeit one that’s very much concerned with the concepts of guilt, redemption, and human nature.  Still, the Kentucky hills remains atmospheric and dream-like and the well-selected performers — particularly Augie Duke and John Pyper-Ferguson — continue to bring their haunted characters to life.

As I said, this isn’t necessarily a film for everyone.  The film’s ending will leave a lot of people feeling perplexed but that’s okay.  A story like this doesn’t need a neat ending.  In fact, Burning Kentucky is a film that demands to end on a hint of messiness and ambiguity.  I liked Burning Kentucky.  You might like it too.

Film Review: Another Plan From Outer Space (dir by Lance Polland)

Another Plan From Outer Space opens with both the Star Spangled Banner and a quick trip through history.  We watch and listen as President John F. Kennedy announces that, some day, a man will walk on the Moon.  Kennedy is followed by Barack Obama, announcing that we will land on Mars within his lifetime.  And finally, we have President Trump, announcing that we will not only someday land on Mars but on other worlds as well.

Jump forward to 2024 and all of those predictions have come true.  There are now Martian colonies and space shuttles regularly make the journey from Earth to Mars and back again.  Man may have conquered space but that doesn’t mean that accidents don’t occasionally happen.  For instance, after we’ve heard from the Presidents, we watch as the American spaceship Genesis One crashes into the desert.

Five members of the crew manage to survive the crash.  They know they’re on Earth but, with their communications equipment damaged, they don’t know exactly where they are.  As Chief Hudson (Augie Duke) puts it, they could just as easily be in the Middle East as they could be in North America.  With the mission leader dead, Captain Jackson (Scott Sell) takes command and immediately starts giving out orders, much to the annoyance of Commander Strickland (Jessica Morris).

However, the crew has more than just professional jealousy and hurt feelings to deal with.  Strange things are happening in the desert.  Hudson swears that she saw the ship’s doctor, Yushiro (Minchi Murakami), fatally injured by something in the desert, just for the body to vanish and Yushiro to later show up quite alive and uninjured.  While Lt. Brooks (Hans Hernke) worries that his watch — a family heirloom — has stopped working, Captain Jackson swears that he can hear music in the distance.

And then there’s the seemingly abandoned cabin, sitting out in the middle of the desert….

Though the title may be evocative of Plan Nine From Outer Space, this film actually has more in common with a classic episode of The Twilight Zone than it does with Ed Wood’s infamous UFO epic.  Along with exploring the mystery of where the Genesis has crashed, the film is even more interested in exploring how each of the individual survivors deal with the isolation of being stranded in the desert.  (Let’s just say that some handle it better than others.)  About halfway through the film, there’s an extended sequence in which the survivors simply sit around a campfire and discuss not only their pasts but what they’re hoping for their futures.  It’s a nicely done scene, one that adds an element of relatable humanity to the film’s science fiction story.

The film’s black-and-white cinematography not captures the harshness of the desert but it also contributes to the film’s retro feel.  The film makes the best of its low-budget aesthetic, using the desert to create a properly ominous atmosphere.  At its best, you can feel the oppressive heat burning down on the characters.  Add to that a nicely fierce performance from Jessica Morris and you have a film that favorably compares to the early sci-fi work of Roger Corman.  The film, of course, ends with both a twist and the possibility of continuation.

Another Plan From Outer Space is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD.