OK, this is a ‘found footage’ in that it’s done in the same style but it’s not a found footage movie for real-real, one of the many frustrating things that the film has to offer. While this is not really found footage I am calling it that because of the style and presentation. It’s wearing those clothes but isn’t really.
Let me explain.
What we have here is a film told from the point of view of a flashlight (!) so that the entire film plays out that way, in a POV style, ala a found footage film, but it’s solely for stylistic purposes and nothing more.
On that end, I applaud the filmmakers, who I tend to dig for their work on HAUNT and their writing on A QUIET PLACE, as it’s done for style, and that’s it but when you make the movie as if it’s in this subgenre you are kinda in or out.
And by the film itself aping one of the biggest found footage movies out there in some ways, well, it’s confusing.
So there you have it, the POV film that’s NOT found footage but wears that pretty dress all the same.
NIGHTLIGHT follows a group of young people as they head out to what are said to be ‘haunted’ woods for a game of flashlight. The game, which is a play on hide and go seek, is done in the dark with players using their flashlights to give clues as to their whereabouts. While the five people know one another they are not all friends, as there are two friend groups coming together, one of them being a young woman who is going because she has a crush on one of the two boys. As the other two girls become catty with the third we start to realize that this outsider knows someone who recently died in those woods, a boy who killed himself, as many had before. Slowly their silly game of nightlight begins to get too serious, as mysterious sounds and figures are seen in the night and the teens begin to wonder if there is credence to the stories that the dead walk those woods still.
The film is well made, is shot wonderfully, lit pretty well, and has some great build up. While the actors are hot and cold, they work with what they have and don’t harm the project.
There is a lot of the film that could play as a really solid BLAIR WITCH lite and it seems to want to lean into that but then…changes its mind.
HERE is where my frustration with the film comes in.
There’s no proper way to get into this without getting deep into spoiler waters and I don’t care to do that. What you have though is a film that builds a lore and then sorta shrugs it off.
We have a lot of supernatural happenings and then everything is pinned on one thing and one person and a grudge of sorts.
The way the film plays out at the end feels more like a Mad Lib of snatched pieces forced together because they seem scary.
But they aren’t.
They are, in fact, lazy, and don’t add anything to the film.
Heck, the landscape of it all is weird enough.
Why is there a graveyard in a woodland area randomly?
Why are there lights like you’d see at a summer camp?
There are all manner of non-sequiturs to make things spooky but they are not tied to anything.
They are left in the wind to hang and bob.
There are so many pieces of scary movies but nothing ties those pieces together. There are hints at lore but it’s second hand rumors of maybe there’s something weird about the place.
Just saying it’s essentially a suicide forest is enough.
Then having these kids acting as they do and yet having something stalking them makes it all the creepier because they may be uneasy but they don’t expect something out there like they almost should here.
The film they made can work, the film they wanted to make can work, but they essentially made two films at once and they don’t work together.
It doesn’t work well if you have a revenge from the grave plot (oh how I wish I could get into that!) and then smash it into a ‘the woods are evil’ plot…UNLESS YOU EXPLAIN IT ALL.
It can work but you have to make sure that there are clues to why this is a thing.
And you can’t throw in random ghouls in scenes and then not have it about them.
And you can’t bring into the film a subplot and not give it the gravity it deserves. It’s not the fault of the actors but of the structure of the rest of the film.
AGAIN, that CAN work, like having a serial killer in NIGHTBREED but it takes a deft hand to make it mean something and belong.
The film isn’t bad.
It’s just frustrating and that the end doesn’t even give you any real answers or resolution is even more frustrating.
It’s an ending.
It fits the film.
But that’s more a reflection on what the film lacks than what it is.
These are good filmmakers that can tell creepy stories, and this proves that, but this one definitely also shows their shortcomings with story.
It’s not found footage but if you want a unique POV film it might be worth a look.
2 out of 5