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Night of Nightmares (aka Ginger), A
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by Jay Seaver

"A fun haunted house picture with a nice cast."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2012 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Should horror films necessarily have a consistent mythology that makes its villain's methods and goals (twistedly) logical, or does such a thing work against it actually being horrifying? "A Night of Nightmares" has a lot of elements that make for a fun little movie, enough to be tremendously fun in the present tense. Just don't ask how it all works.

This one starts with Mark Lighthouse (Marc Senter), a young man with a music blog into which he pours the bulk of his time. His latest discovery is a singer who goes by the singular name of "Ginger"; when he asks for an interview, she accepts, suggesting they do it at her place, a rather isolated farmhouse - you know, the type with no mobile phone reception. It actually goes pretty well, at least until Phil (Jason London), a figure from her past, shows up, but a stalker is the least of their problems.

Writer/director Buddy Giovinazzo is best known in the United States for gritty, intense urban stories like Combat Shock and Life is Hot in Cracktown (mostly paying the bills by making police procedurals for German television), to the point where a horror movie is actually a sort of light-hearted break for him. Heck, it's fun by most standards, with light banter between the leads, gleeful jump scenes and occasionally nasty bits of humor. Heck, he even plays with the form a little, starting things off with a flash-forward that tells the audience just how the bulk of the movie will play out.

He can do that, because this is a movie where getting there is half the fun. Half of that is the various jumps, scares, and freak-out moments the movie is littered with. Savvy horror audiences have seen many of them, but not all. Pretty much across the board, they are executed with skill and panache, both in terms of what (mostly physical) effects are needed in a haunted house story and staging. Things are particularly impressive in what may be the film's centerpiece, when Giovinazzo twists what starts out as a moment of sweet release into something horrifyingly sinister.

The other half what works is the great job by the two main actors. This is not the sort of horror movie cast designed for winnowing; we know early on that it's going to be Mark and Ginger for close to the duration, so the actors have to be on their toes. Happily, they are up to the task. They take the time Giovinazzo gives them to introduce themselves to build chemistry and get in good with the audience so that the two of them falling in love feels natural, and not just like a reaction to an intense situation. Senter's got a nice, stumbling-about charm, while Downing makes Ginger clearly someone who has lived an eventful life, with attendant fears and experience. She's got the singing voice for the part, too.

Everything winds up pulling together, more or less, for a movie that provides fun scares and a cast worth watching get scared.

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originally posted: 07/29/12 00:07:41
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2012 series, click here.

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