Stars: London May, Mya Hudson, Hannah Pierce, Henry Mortensen, Victoria Goodhart | Written by Christian Ackerman, Chuck Foster | Directed by Erik Boccio

frightfest 2022: ‘night of the bastard’ review

After an injured young woman, Kiera (May Hudson) takes refuge in his secluded home, gruff recluse Reed (London May) must fight off a bloodthirsty cult and an insatiable priestess (Hannah Pierce) to save both of their lives. A battle to survive becomes a gripping race against the clock to escape a perverse ritual of blood and flesh…

Night of the Bastard opens in 1978 with a prologue that feels like it’s stepped straight out of that era – not only in terms of visuals but also in terms of the brutality of what occurs. The film plays out like a home invasion movie come siege movie a la John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13, but stylistically by way of 70s classic Race With the Devil – the same dusty desert, a group of fish out of water protagonists and a killer cult.

For the most part Night of the Bastard follows the standard siege plotting – external invaders want to get inside the recluse’s home. However, there’s more to it than just a standard siege story. Yes, there’s something inside the house but it’s not what you’d come to expect. It’s a brilliant subversion of the tropes and cliches of this particular sub-genre but one that’s hinted at from the very title of the film!

The desert setting plays a big part in Night of the Bastard, from the bleak prologue to the wide overhead pan of the final scene, the desert locale is just as much a part of the film as the cast is – its vast opens not affording Kiera and Reed any respite, any opportunity to escape; it’s almost as if the desert is as much an oppressor as the cult at Reed’s door.

Speaking of the cult, it’s rather easy to uncover who, or what they are. The baby torn from the belly of its mother in the prologue (a grisly hit in the face of the audience to kick the film off), is all grown up and is now Claire, the priestess who is coming for Kiera and Reed, or should that be Redd and Kiera..? And Maxine (Victoria Goodhart), the woman who committed the atrocity that birthed Claire – literally – now older and more wizened but still recognisable. It’s Maxine’s obviously INSANE influence that has born this new generation of acolytes seeking to bring about the rebirth of their god – their pursuit on this particular night.

Now, about that title. If you read that and thought “who’s the bastard?” Thankfully all is explained as the film’s denouement approaches, as secrets are revealed and the truth of this siege on Reed’s home and the attack on Kiera and her friends becomes clear. Is it Kiera, who has a son out of wedlock, taking the meaning of “bastard” in the literal sense? Is it Reed? Who’s obvious attitude and issues have led to him becoming a reclusive loner. Or is it Claire? Is she, torn from her mother’s womb, the bastard of the title? Night of the Bastard reveals all as the insanity of this 70s-themed brutal, bloody, and brilliant grindhouse-esque horror reaches its killer crescendo.

**** 4/5

Night of the Bastard screened as part of this year’s Arrow Video London Frightfest.


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