DIRECTED BY: Jordan Harris, Andrew Schrader
FEATURING: Peter Tullio, Philip Marlatt, Melanie Wilson
PLOT: Three young would-be occultists head to the woods to perform a Satanic ritual and (not surprisingly) get more than they bargained for.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It’s got a few great psychedelic/Satanic sequences that wouldn’t be out of place in a black metal music video, but overall it’s not strong enough to contend as one of the best weird movies of all time.
COMMENTS: The soundtrack to Fever Night AKA Band of Satanic Outsiders is made up of grungy psychedelic garage rock rather than the black/death metal stylings the flick’s devil-worshiping premise would lead you to expect. This movie is full of small stylistic surprises like that, along with some big bombastic ones. Fever Night starts with a humorous mock disclaimer implying that you’re watching a videocassette, then segues to the words “BAD PEOPLE” spelled out in squirming worms, followed by voice-overs of the main characters as they argue over what is the most Satanic meat (“so, Satan’s a goat? I always thought Satan was a pig”). We then see our three occult protagonists and get our next shock: these are some clean-cut cultists. Warren wears a tie, Elliot sports a red letterman’s jacket, and cute Terry has a wholesome Katie Holmes thing going on. These are the best-groomed Satanic outsiders you’ll ever meet, Satanic outsiders you wouldn’t be afraid to bring home to Mom for dinner. It’s an intriguingly strange setup, but I’m afraid the rest of the movie can’t quite deliver on that promise. The three teens go into the woods, conduct their blood-drinking ritual, and then one of them falls into a coma; the next half-hour is composed of ersatz Blair Witch Project wanderings in the woods, with disappearing bodies, mysterious bird carcasses, and interpersonal squabblings. This is where Fever Night lost me. While it would be creepy to be caught out in the woods with unexplained spooky sounds and distant lights accosting you at every step, it’s not nearly as scary to watch the same things happen to amateur actors bathed in stage lights (that’s exactly why the aforementioned Witch Project put everything in the first person perspective). Fortunately, the discovery of a bleeding cow skull leads to an explosive psychedelic montage full of solarization effects and rapid-fire editing of full of flying animal skulls and pentagrams (and I swear I caught an almost subliminal still of the Devil from Häxan). The film’s next two acts are devoted to killing off the remaining two characters (although whether they remain dead is up for debate) via devilish tableaux that incorporate camping nymphettes, redneck rapists, animal-headed individuals, more fast-cutting music video audition interludes, revenants, and protagonists sucked into the sky and incorporated into nebulae. Psychologically relevant homophobia pervades the ironic horror denouements, making Fever Night especially uncomfortable for the target audience of young heterosexual males. Fever Night is a weak tab, but it does have detectable psychotronic activity. If I were looking for a lysergic campfire movie for the weekend, I’d drop a big dose of I Can See You instead.
Fever Night AKA Band of Satanic Outsiders (which, by the way, is the actual onscreen title, AKA and all) truly divides viewers. On the one hand, the average horror fan, the kind who post one to two sentence reviews on IMDB, Amazon or Netflix and favor the word “suck,” tends to hate the movie both for its slow opening and for the surreal confusion of its ending. The horror press, on the other hand, was effusive in its praise (given the dreck that passes for low-budget independent horror, you have to understand how fresh anything that’s even a little bit different will appear to anyone confined to the blood beat). Personally I didn’t enjoy Fever Night very much and even considered giving it a “Beware” rating, but I do see a lot of its strengths, and won’t recommend against it. Ironically, most of the positive reviews liked the structured first part of the movie the best, and thought that the flick went off the rails when the hallucinations and surrealism started taking over. My criticism was exactly the opposite: I wish the directors had moved more of the trippy goodies up front. My interest waned while the movie wandered around in the woods, jumping at every snapping twig, and the movie never really pulled me all the way back in.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“…like an acid trip riff on ’70s Luciferian classics like The Devil’s Rain and Race with the Devil… a fiesty, surprisingly funny, and very stylish offering that deftly sidesteps the usual pitfalls of boring camerawork and amateurish performances.”–Mondo Digital (contemporaneous)