Take Back the Night (2021) – Film Review

Take Back the Night film review main

Director: Gia Elliot
Cast: Emma Fitzpatrick, Angela Gulner, Jennifer Lafleur
Certificate: 15

By Sarah Morgan

Monsters are real – according to this low-budget, hugely effective chiller anyway.

It’s a clever film, one that can be read in a number of ways. On the surface, it’s a neat, inventive horror movie, in another it’s a feminist approach to the genre, a cautionary tale, a look at the power of social media or a musing on the #MeToo movement.

Take Back the Night film review coverThe main focus of the story is Jane, a talented artist who has every reason to celebrate – her first solo exhibition has gone down a storm at a trendy LA gallery and so she’s partying like it’s 1999, taking on copious amounts of drugs and booze and having anonymous sex with a stranger.

“Take control”

However, her journey home through a particularly creepy-looking area turns into the stuff of nightmares when she’s attacked by what can best be described as a swirling black mass with claws, its arrival announced by a swarm of flies.

The ‘thing’ temporarily paralyses Jane, cutting a crescent-shaped wound into her wrist and slicing open her belly. However, it’s frightened off by a bright light, and the next time we see its victim, she’s in hospital receiving treatment and a visit from a sympathetic female police detective.

As Jane documents seemingly every moment of her life on social media, she relays what has happened to her followers. She also appears on a local talk show to discuss what happened, and that’s when things begin to fall apart.

Her horrifying past is dragged up, including the abuse she suffered at the hands of her schizophrenic mother, as well as her own past spell in an institution and arrest on drugs charges. All these matters suddenly cast doubt in the eyes of her supporters, some of whom turn against her. When the police also think she’s made the entire experience up, she hits a new low.

But, when an online community of other victims comes to light, Jane begins to hope that she can take control of her life once again, even though the monster is out there, waiting to strike again…

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“Unusual conclusion”

The dangers that women face from often unseen assailants has been in the news a lot over the past few years following such high-profile cases as Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa and Ashling Murphy. Take Back the Night, despite being an American movie, taps into the issues raised by these tragedies in a low-key, skilful manner.

It also confronts the notion of victim-shaming – Jane’s story is disbelieved because of her lifestyle and background, rather than the evidence presented.

Director Gia Elliot and her co-writer Emma Fitzpatrick deserve plaudits for interweaving important issues into their story while never allowing it to become preachy or worthy.

Fitzpatrick is superb in the lead role of Jane too. We (particularly, I imagine, any females watching) sympathise with her throughout, and following the film’s unusual conclusion, are probably left thinking, “there but for the grace of God go I”.

• High Definition Blu-Ray (1080p) presentation
• Original 5.1 DTS-HD MA surround audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Audio commentary by writer-director Gia Elliot and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas author of Rape Revenge Films: A Critical Study
• Please Don’t Say the Word ‘Monster’ on National Television, a visual essay by film critic Emma Westwood
• Trauma and Space, a visual essay by film critic Cerise Howard exploring the idea of ‘safe spaces’, sanctuary and vulnerability in Take Back the Night
• What is a Body?, a visual essay by film critic Justine Smith examining bodily autonomy and perception in the digital age
• #MonstersAreReal, a visual essay by film critic BJ Colangelo looking at survivor unity, sexual violence, and social media
• Theatrical trailer
• Image galleries
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nicole Rifkin
Take Back the Night is released on Blu-ray by Arrow, £24.99

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