Exceptionally acted and well constructed, “Come, Said the Night” is a powerful coming of age horror film that challenges expectations at every turn.
Director: Andres Rovira
Producers: James Edmund Datri, Amy Geist, Ali Kazzaz, Colby Reed Miller and Lew Temple
Special Effects: Jacob Roanhaus
Cast: Danielle Harris, Lew Temple, Daniela Leon, Nicole Moorea Sherman, Max Page, Tate Birchmore, Maya Nalli, Christine Andelfinger, Christopher Watson and Angel Seañez
Released By: Miller/Datri Pictures
Release Date: 10/27/18
13-year old SPROUT GRADY, in the midst of coming-of-age, and on vacation with her family to their secluded retreat in the forest to mark the anniversary of her sister’s death, grows convinced that a monster is haunting the nearby woods. Embarking on a mission to vanquish it, she uncovers horrifying secrets that rock the core of everything she thought she knew.
Coming of age and religious horror almost seem to be made to go hand in hand with each other, a unique combination that almost needs no defending or pretense. Director Andres Rovira does a masterful job in Come, Said the Night of crafting a tale with many unique twists and turns, such as using Greek mythology as the religious backdrop (I can’t find a single horror title using this as the focal point) and the use of a beast known as a Gorgon (a mythical creature portrayed in ancient Greek literature, the term commonly refers to any of three sisters who had hair made of living, venomous snakes, as well as a horrifying visage that turned those who beheld her to stone) as the monster.
This can’t be stated enough that the only other HORROR films that I could find with a gorgon in it were Terence Fisher’s THE GORGON (1964) for Hammer Films and George Lazopoulos’ MEDUSA (1998) for Stone Productions , so points for originality are immediately given because you know that something new and fresh is coming to the table.
Bold moves like this are rarely taken these days, and you can tell the research was put into this decision. Now combine the coming of age factor into the equation, and you actually have something you can sink your teeth into.
As the next wave of younger actresses enters into the industry and the genre, Nicole Moorea Sherman’s performance can be pointed out as a shining example of a strong female archetype that can vulnerable AND strong in the face of horrific events and truths. The innocent qualities she possesses while at the same time starting to display her strides into womanhood, make for a commanding performance and really helps to give you an emotional attachment to her that few young actors and actresses are able to convey to the audience.
You can also see the awkwardness of not having a female influence in her life as she transitions from child to adult. The loss of her mother and sister weigh heavily on her, even with the support of her younger brother and her father. The resistance against Danielle Harris’ Ranger Stella Woodhouse is well played as well, going from hot to cold in a moment’s notice.
In Come, Said the Night, there are other themes beyond the obvious things you see on the screen. While it is certainly popular (and rightfully so at times) to poke at Christianity and other religions, it most certainly is not common to see Greek mythology viewed in this fashion. Gods exist for almost every facet of life, with people often choosing specific Gods to follow that fit their lifestyles and beliefs. What I find really interesting is that Rovira picks Gods that have dual purposes in the Pantheon and assigns them in a way that makes you look closer at their nature.
The other aspect of the film that draws you in is the fact that Come, Said the Night is about a single father with his children. While most horror films use the trope of the single mother being endangered and having to defend her kids, we get to see somewhat of the other side of the spectrum initially in this film. The best part is that it does not detract from the coming of age story, nor does it take anything away from the empowerment that Nicole’s character gains throughout the film. In fact, it actually enhances the experience in unforeseen ways.
The dynamic of the family plays a critical part in this film. Both children and the father all have emotional baggage that is quite apparent from the beginning, but you do get a sense of warmth and compassion from all of them. The heavy influence of religion is heavily felt almost from the beginning of the film. But as I stated before, because it is a religion that is not in the mainstream attention, it actually forces you to look deeper into the context of what is going on.
The initial overall picture is that of a family that has suffered tragedy and loss but manages to hold it all together for the sake of one another. Once Sprout starts to see the Gorgon however, the movie starts to take a leaning towards the darker side of humanity and religion/mythology. Sprout allegedly suffers from “night terrors” and they seemed to be triggered whenever she starts to think of her recently deceased sister.
Depending on how you interpret later actions in the film, the “night terrors” can be seen as alliteration to something much more heinous and taboo, a bond and a line that should never be crossed.
The Gorgon itself is shrouded deep in shadow and dream-like states through the entire film. In many ways. it makes sense given the nature of the myth — that if you look a Gorgon in the eyes, you will be turned to stone. Stylistically I feel that this was the best way to go until the reveal at the end of the film when you realize that the Gorgon is perceived differently by each of the characters.
But in also keeping with mythology, references to the Succubus (a demon in female form, or supernatural entity in folklore, that appears in dreams and takes the form of a woman in order to seduce men, usually through sexual activity) are made several times in the film as well — particularly in reference to Danielle Harris’ character, as well as Sprout’s deceased sister Magda.
That was a nice touch, given that many have us have seen Harris grow up on screen. It was refreshing to see her play the more mature adult as opposed to the teenager-in-peril, and she was able to display a completely different side to her acting prowess. It was also interesting to see femininity played in the film as both good and evil in the same stroke.
As the film rolls on, we see that while the father (played masterfully by Lew Temple) does many things to try and empower Sprout and her ways of thinking, he is also fearful of the strong young woman she is becoming and finds different ways to stifle her curiosity and questions on certain subjects.
We even start to question his morality and faith through the film, as we learn he has his share of inner demons as well.
It is from here that we can see why Sprout is trying so desperately to express herself through inner exploration and an outer boldness of teenage defiance, while maintaining just that sliver of child-like wonderment. It was also nice to see her boldness in wanting to go hunting for the monsters in the woods, even calling out the Ranger’s son to come and join her.
When she finally figures out the terrible secrets going on around her, she could have folded like so many characters in genre history past, but she just hunkers down and grits through the situation like a true warrior would. This is a perfect representation of how young female characters should be portrayed in cinema.
From a technical standpoint, this film showcases true talent and desire. The camerawork is sharp when it needs to be and has a surreal, ethereal quality to it when the mood is appropriate. The sound design is crisp and enhances the mood perfectly. Keeping in mind that this is not a slasher in the woods type of film, the gore FX and blood are really kept to a minimum while digital FX take more of a center stage on this one.
Come, Said the Night is undoubtedly a film that will make you think, succeeding by adhering to the old adage that “less is more”.
It’s more about what you don’t see than what you do that makes Come, Said the Night so powerful. In fact, the psychological aspects of Come, Said the Night are where it really shines. This is especially true towards the end when you’re faced with some shocking reveals and are forced to question everything you thought you understood about Sprout, her visions, and the relationship with her “loving” father.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also point out what an important role location and cinematography plays in the story. Part of what really makes this film work so well is the sense of isolation and separation from the “real world” afforded by the beautiful but remote setting. The isolation of the location mirrors the isolation and loneliness each of the characters feels as a result of their personal baggage and trauma. These feelings, even when unspoken, bleed onto the screen in such an effective way.
Overall, this was a powerful film that brings the watcher in and gives them an experience that they were not expecting. This slow-building but very satisfying arthouse approach to horror comes wrapped in mystique — drawing you in with actual character development and emotion instead of gore and nudity. It was also incredibly nice to NOT see all of the far too common tropes of the genre being paraded out in place of real creativity and story.
But the most important factor in all of this is how, by the end of the movie, you likely won’t be talking about all of the silly little things that tend to annoy you in releases like this. Instead, I predict you’ll walk away with a real appreciation for the source material, a respect for the craft on display, and the satisfaction of knowing that our genre has evolved to prove our daughters, nieces and female friends are just as brave and heroic in the face of true evil as any man could ever be.
I look forward to owning Come, Said the Night on Blu-ray and sharing it with others!
(As this was an online screener, there will be only one rating for this release at this time. I am really looking forward to picking up a physical copy of Come, Said the Night and seeing what goodies are contained on the disc and if there is any addition footage that will be added that was not shown during its theatrical run!)
Movie Rating: 4 out of 5