Writer/director/editor/producer Adam Gravely’s debut feature 3rd Night combines slasher and home invasion horror, and even boasts a touch of black-gloved giallo. Working with a main cast of six characters, he focuses more on elevating tension and mystery than a body count, and the film succeeds in bringing on the eeriness.
Young couple Megan (Jesse McGinn) and Jonathan Reid (Robert Hartburn) give up the rat race for a new life on an orchard in the countryside, in a house purchased through real estate agent Deirdre Bodeen (Rose McKenna). Their cat goes missing right away, but Jonathan insists it is fine. He couldn’t be more wrong, of course. Someone peers in at them during intimate moments and leaves cryptic poems for them. Jonathan lets macho pride prevent him from contacting the authorities, as Megan wants to do, even as matters escalate. Meanwhile, poacher Cambo (Bruce Denny) and his teenaged protegé Rex (Connor Gosatti) are taking part in a rabbit culling on the couple’s property, complete with big knives, illegal substances, and perverted peeping.
The paths of the couple and the poachers steadily build toward a collision, but Gravely doesn’t take the obvious route toward the film’s climax. Instead, he takes matters to a place that probably few viewers expect.
At a lean 72-minutes running time, 3rd Night leans more heavily on ratcheting up tension that it does on character development, but viewers are given enough time with Megan and Jonathan to become fully invested in what will happen to them. A bit of a surprise in the third act feels like it arrived somewhat late, but the creepiness factor during this sequence is terrific, nonetheless.
Daniel Holliday’s cinematography is engaging. With much of the film shot at night, Gravely and Holliday keep viewers from seeing much more than Megan and Jonathan do, by design, until the third act. It’s an approach that strikes at the helplessness people feel when we are in a new area, surrounded by acres of land, but sense that something or someone is out there.
Much of the horror in 3rd Night relies on good, old-fashioned off-screen suggestion and the threat of what might occur at any second. Gravely understands the fine, almost lost art of letting viewer’s imaginations fill in the gaps with disturbing images of their own. From its opening sequence cutting between a child playing and a woman being pursued by a killer with a sledgehammer to its unsettling final shot, 3rd Night is an effective chiller that announces Gravely as a horror director with a bright future.
I viewed 3rd Night as part of my FrightFest (August 24–28) coverage; the film has upcoming screenings at New York City’s FEARnyc festival on October 29 and in Australia at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival on November 2. For more information, visit the film’s official website at https://www.3rdnight.com/ or its official Facebook and Twitter pages at @3rdNightMovie.