An intense, dread-inducing nightmare, “Night of the Bastard” is satisfyingly horrific while packing a powerful emotional punch.
Night Of The Bastard is the new feature-length movie from director Erik Boccio (Brutal Reality Inc, Blood Bath) and stars London May (Brutal Reality Inc, Three Days To Live), Mya Hudson (A Wall Away, My Corona), and Henry Mortensen (The Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King).
Night Of The Bastard was unleashed upon theater and VOD audiences on Friday the 13th, and oddly enough, the film’s production was plagued by strange occurrences, natural disasters, and on-set injuries. I have endless respect for the entire cast and crew for their perseverance in ensuring the film’s completion!
The film opens in 1978 on a desolate landscape filled with tumbleweeds, animal skulls, and sprawling horizons fill the screen as a young pregnant couple discusses visiting their brother in his new desert home.
The lazy, chilled pacing takes a sharp turn when the couple encounters a Manson-esque Cult of devil worshippers who have disturbing plans for them and their unborn child.
Fast forward to 2018, and we are introduced to Reed, a recluse with emotional baggage who leads an isolated existence in the Californian desert, drinking homebrew mead and caring for his pet turtle Marlon.
Reed is reluctant to interact with most people, and one night when he happens upon three rowdy campers partying on his land, he proceeds to chase them off with a shotgun.
Later that night, a young female camper named Kiera (played by Mya Hudson) returns to Reed’s property. Panicked and bleeding, she screams about herself and her friends being attacked by some weirdos in the desert.
An extremely reluctant Reed agrees to aid her, and his choice triggers a series of bizarre events involving a cult of Daemon worshippers led by Matriarch/ High Priestess Claire (played by Hannah Pierce), who will stop at nothing to retrieve Kiera to use in their nefarious ritual.
Night Of The Bastard oozes late 70’s Grindhouse charm.
It shares connective storytelling tissue with movies like A Boy And His Dog and Taxi Driver.
Despite its Midnight Movie sensibilities, ‘Bastard has a ton of heart at its core, and this is what audiences will really connect with.
Reed is a conflicted, complicated man who shoulders a lifetime of unresolved trauma. London May injects realism into his portrayal of Reed, and he convincingly depicts a wounded man struggling with flashbacks and alcoholism with the kind of sensitivity and believability rarely seen in Indie Horror cinema.
Mya Hudson switches between mouthy Millennial to animalistic badass with ease, and both her and May’s powerhouse performances have solidified ‘Bastard as a modern Cult favorite amongst film festival audiences.
The film settles into an increasingly tense home invasion scenario as the Cult’s devout followers descend upon Reed and Mya, who have barricaded themselves inside Reed’s home.
Chuck Foster and Christian Ackerman’s script tears by at a break-neck speed, ensuring that there is never a dull moment, and the audience is treated to a plethora of creatively choreographed fight sequences and gory, inventive kills.
The Grindhouse tropes of Satanic Cults and the oddly perceived people who seek refuge in isolated landscapes are given a refreshing spin with a couple of twists, ensuring that predictability is never an issue.
I appreciated the choice to subvert audience expectations by giving the female characters all the power; the Cult is very much Matriarchal, and the film’s sex scene flips gender norms on their heads which may prove shocking for some male viewers.
The character of Reed is nuanced. However, there are plenty of clues that hint at why he is the way he is for those who care to look. Subtle visual references are scattered throughout his home, and the empathy and care he once reserved solely for his turtle Marlon are begrudgingly extended toward Kiera.
Marlon the turtle really is the heart of the movie.
He represents Reed’s unwillingness to connect with any creature that requires empathy to thrive, and he also symbolizes the notion of existing in a tank, closed off from the world outside.
Night Of The Bastard is successful as a high-octane Horror fare.
However, the film’s hidden layers are dripping with symbolism.
From the complexities of generational trauma and how this can influence the paths we take in life to the introduction of a new Daemonic villain, which represents truth in its purest form, Night Of The Bastard is laden with genre-bending ideas and imagery.
There is a sense of hopelessness that permeates the entire film.
Reminding me of the French Extreme/ New Wave films from the likes of Gasper Noe and Xavier Gens, this film packs a powerful emotional sucker punch that you will not see coming.
The ticking clock element of outside threat adds to the paranoia shared by our two protagonists, and the bubbling unease of knowing that something bloody awful is just around the corner adds to the mounting sense of dread.
The strong Occult imagery, violence, nudity, and grotesque practical FX belie the softcore hidden within Night Of The Bastard; I never expected to connect with the film as much as I did emotionally.
Audiences will come for the gory action. However, they will stay for the heart.
Just be ready to have yours ripped out once the final credits roll.