Night Book (2021) – Interactive Film Review
Director: Alex Lightman
Cast: Julie Dray, Mark Wingett, Colin Salmon
By @Roger Crow
Assorted lockdowns and working from home has turned many of us into virtual participants in online meetings, workshops and general catch ups as we try and find our way through the pandemic.
So little wonder interactive video games have reflected this strange new world. The latest is a curious affair which is like one of those Euro bilingual thrillers seen on BBC Four – it tries to be all things to all people, but winds up being a mess.
The plot centres on Loralyn, who works the night shift remotely from her home, live interpreting video calls from English to French and back again. Currently pregnant, with a husband working far away and caring for her mentally ill father, she is desperately trying to keep her family together and safe – but who is she prepared to sacrifice to survive? The fiancé, the baby, her father or herself?
“Needed a few laughs”
So it’s a great idea, and the cursed book thing is always a good plot device for films such as The Evil Dead. But unless you speak fluent French, the translation aspect gets on the nerves quite fast.
There are plenty of creepy moments. The interactive element is pretty fast, which is crucial for a game like this, but it so desperately needed a few laughs here and there to lighten the mood.
There are times it’s genuinely creepy as the old parent (The Bill veteran Mark Wingett) locked in his bedroom is possessed by demonic forces. Either that or he’s drunk too much industrial strength lager.
Of course interactive games like this have been around for decades, and while some boast huge budgets and star names, others with smaller production costs need to be more daring, original and quirky to survive. Here the protagonists, including Julie Dray and Colin Salmon, are fine, the game play is just all right, and while the mood is aptly sinister, I did lose interest after the first half an hour. Of course the beauty of the interactive game is you can play the whole thing again with different results and get an alternate experience.
“Lot of potential”
Unlike 2020’s interactive offering The Complex, starring Kate Dickie, which I happily played several times over, and enjoyed every minute, but probably not as much as Mrs C who loved it even more, this one is a bit of a chore. A shame as there’s a lot of potential here.
The creatives needed to dial down the mixed screen formats by 50%, and the glitchy video screen interference by 99%, because that was more irritating than watching a damaged Blu-ray disc while listening to static.
Some horror thrillers are fun and scary but this is just annoying and depressing. I’ve only played it once with a certain outcome, and sadly I’ve no desire to try it all again. I might just cover a DVD of Evil Dead II with scratches and watch that instead. Should be a lot more fun.