Fear the Night is a good home-invasion movie that works as an empowering chick thriller, but the real reason to see it is Maggie Q.
I love a good home invasion thriller—Us, Becky, Funny Games, Straw Dogs, The Purge—none of them disappoint. And any movie that opens with a blood-spattered character walking alone down a dirt road has my attention. In his new upcoming thriller Fear the Night, this is how Director Neil LaBute (House of Darkness, Out of the Blue) introduces us to our main character, Tes (Maggie Q, of The Protégé, Fantasy Island); then, he backtracks a full 24 hours and shows us how she came to be that way. While the movie works as a decent little thriller, the real reason to see this film is Maggie Q.
The plot follows eight women on their way to a remote farmhouse in the California hills for a bachelorette party. On their way, they stop for gas and snacks and encounter a trio of roughnecks, who taunt some of the girls. When Tes intervenes and dishes back what the guys are doling out, she makes it clear they don’t scare her—she’s an Iraqi war veteran who knows not just how to fight but also how to protect … and kill. Fear the Night does a great job showing us what happens when you threaten the lives of such a person and those she loves.
When the girls arrive at their destination, they notice some guys down the hill watching them and assume they’re just the caretakers, who live on the farmhouse property. After the girls get settled, they kick off their pre-nuptial celebration, while Tes and her sister Beth (Kat Foster, of ‘Til Death, Your Family or Mine), who clearly harbors anger towards Tes, attempt to communicate while navigating their strained relationship.
As the party gets started, Tes—feeling out of place due to her PTSD, addiction issues, and difficulty fitting in with other people—steps outside for some air. Her other sister, Rose (Highdee Kuan, of You, Proximity), who is also the bride, soon follows, as does Beth. The sisters manage to share a sweet moment together before, out of the blue, an arrow flies in and lodges right in Rose’s heart, killing her. Panic and fear fill everyone but Tes, as masked intruders roll up in trucks and unleash a barrage of arrows into the house.
With the farm under siege, Tes shifts into strategic battle mode, calms everyone down, and comes up with a plan. She then sneaks out to evaluate what they’re up against and discovers the intruders have no intention of letting anyone out alive. What they thought would be an easy invasion turns out to be quite the challenge, as the intruders are no match for Tes, her skills, and the group’s will to survive. The plot doesn’t end here, though; there’s a lot more that unfolds, but I don’t want to spoil anything for you.
Maggie Q does a fantastic job as a strong female lead responsible not just for protecting herself, her sisters, and their friends but also for empowering the terrified women to come together, support one another, and fight for themselves. The second this threat breaches the farmhouse boundaries, she instantly establishes herself as the leader and protector, displaying a controlled amount of patience and empathy in a moment of urgency—an act that forces Beth to see her in a whole new light. Maggie Q really is enjoyable to watch in this scenario.
While the action lags in a lot of the fight scenes, there are some good takedowns, kill shots, and kill scenes. However, I will say I expected more action, given Maggie Q’s stunt training experience and martial arts background. I think the filmmakers missed a huge opportunity here in utilizing her skills and abilities. What could’ve been high-action scenes full of intensity and combat turned out to focus more on stealth and ease, leaving this thriller’s action scenes short lived.
One thing I really liked about the film is how it unfolds in increments and breaks one continuous story up into sequenced pieces—chapters, if you will. Each scene begins with what time the events you’re about to see occurred. The way LaBute lays this out reminds me of how Director Ruben Fleischer introduces the rules in Zombieland. You’ll see the resemblance.
I appreciated the use of blood in the kill scenes, as well as the use of stealth and sex to distract and take down a masculine threat, but the choreography was, for me, a little mediocre and uneventful. The cinematography was well done, and the film’s efforts to reinforce its message through examples of female empowerment (and what happens when that’s incited) are well received. And while I enjoyed the narrative, I think the filmmakers tried to do too much in a 93-minute runtime.
Where’s the focus? On the relationship between the sisters or on the wounded, traumatized vet struggling to fit in? Is the focus on female empowerment or on the reason why the intruders even show up in the first place? It’s a subplot that isn’t very well explored and could’ve used more attention.
The acting was better than I anticipated, but next to Maggie Q, there was no other standout. Starring alongside her, in addition to Kuan and Foster, are Travis Hammer (Godless, Big Sky), James Carpinello (Gotham, The Punisher), Highdee Kuan (You, Proximity), Ito Aghayere (Star Trek: Picard, Carol’s Second Act), and Gia Crovatin (House of Darkness, I Feel Pretty).
All of these female actors are much better actors than the spoiled, dramatic vapid women they have to portray in this movie, but they do it well. I honestly couldn’t stand any of them except for Tes (Maggie Q) and Rose (Kuan), but that changed as the movie unfolded, so that was a pleasant surprise. The fellas didn’t do so bad, either.
Overall, Fear the Night is a decent home-invasion movie that could’ve used more emphasis on its suspense, fear, and action, but in the end, it works as an empowering chick thriller.
Quiver Distribution will release Fear the Night in Theaters, on Demand and on Digital on July 21, 2023.