In Florida’s Ocala National Forest, deadly things are happening. Katie and her pals have shown up for a fun camping trip, but camping is the last thing on someone’s mind. And that someone plans to let Katie and her pals know what bloody thoughts he’s really thinking.
One Night of Fear is Brian Troxell’s twenty-thousand dollar love letter slash (pun intended) throwback to nineteen-eighties psycho killer stalker movies. It stars Jessica Sonneborn as Katie, Suzi Lorraine as Jaclyn, Jimmy Dempster as Rob, Russ Forga as Elmer, Megan Sweet as Brittany, and Jason Sutton as the obligatory Killer With No Name. Despite embracing all the trappings from the decade of big hair and even bigger machetes, the film takes place in the present while drawing on a rather long history of mysterious disappearances and deaths in Florida’s Ocala National Forest, dating at least as far back as 1966. Since that year, the remains of supposed victims of serial killers have been found, people have vanished without a trace from trails thoroughly searched, and numerous bodies have been dumped within its green mansions.
Russ Forga’s Elmer, Ocala’s park ranger, acts as the viewer’s intro to the film; while being directed by a monotonously droning dispatcher, various scenes of him wondering petulantly from truck to campsite to truck to bathroom to swampy overlook back to truck again take up most of the opening shots.
This was obviously played for laughs, because, according to the nineteen-eighties checklist, there’s nothing funnier than a fat guy grousing about his drudge of a job. Interwoven with these little lumbering vignettes are over-heated scenes of the plodding psycho killer doing what plodding psycho killers do: beatings, kidnapping, torture, and murder; and, to give the viewer that Camp Crystal Lake flashback vibe, the first take-out is filled with gratuitous nudity and bondage, all of which occurs in a barn resembling a staged display at Home Depot. Immediately following this, the full-blown slasher plot begins with the rest of the cast encountering The Killer With No Name rather abruptly on a dirt road after he dispatches his second victim of the film.
The acting by several members of the cast is, at best, strictly community theater level. And in some cases, doesn’t even make it beyond the point of a high school production of West Side Story, which sounds hysterically funny in this context, and therefore, extremely entertaining, but it isn’t. It’s just bad and makes me wish I were doing something else, like having a colonoscopy. The acting run-down: Jimmy Dempster is satisfactory as Rob; Jessica Sonneborn as the designated Scream Queen for this outing is sufficient; Suzi Lorraine as the shrill Jaclyn isn’t memorable at all; Russ Forga as the massively mopey Elmer fumbles his scenes frequently; and the worst of all is Jason Sutton as The Killer.
He has no gravitas, no presence. He’s about as menacing as Justin Bieber at an ISIS meeting, especially since he seems to be wearing nothing except overalls stolen from the back of the Grateful Dead tour bus.
Though many things in this film deserve attention due to their sub-par quality, one thing that stands out above all else as purely low-grade amateur work is the special effects; granted, for slasher films, budgets are almost unanimously microscopic, but competent filmmakers know that for this sort of film to work, you have to have two strong components. Those two things are: an impressive killing machine, both in terms of visuals and presence; the other absolute must is believable kill effects. Both Oliver Tosh, as visual effects supervisor, and Shiva Rodriguez as the person on special effects makeup, are lacking any kind of ability or skill in the area of makeup effects; although it was nice to see practical effects being used, none of it was convincing, and most of it was embarrassingly inept and unprofessional.
For any kind of film, let alone horror, One Night of Fear is extraordinarily bush-league. It bungles virtually everything from pacing, acting, and story to directing, special effects, and casting. The whole lot comes off thin and derivative; even Troxell’s rangy obsession with bad breeding and abusive parenting seems lifted entirely from Rob Zombie’s hemmed in bag of squalid tricks. This one gets half a hockey mask out of five.