Take Back the Night (2021)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally watched this movie as part of Salem Horror Fest on October 3, 2021 and are happy that it’s finally going to be playing select theaters and streaming from Dark Sky Films. 

Take Back the Night makes a pretty astounding choice as its main character Jane Doe isn’t completely heroic. I’ll explain in a moment.

She’s just finished her first art show, selling every work she’s created and enjoying the benefits of being a social media influencer and young person in the middle of a hustling and bustling art scene. She even helps a few people in much worse shape than her get home, but when it’s her time to leave, she’s all alone and in the exact situation women are warned to avoid. She walks down a dead-end alley and gets assaulted.

By a dark cloud of smoke and flies, no less. So when the cops ask her to detail what happened, she keeps referring to her attacker as it. But she also discovers that despite claw marks across her stomach and enough physical damage to land her in the ER, she can’t quite convince the police that she’s a victim.

And here’s where that narrative choice I began with kicks in.

Jane doesn’t tell the cops every detail. And by claiming that she was attacked by a monster — and not a man — her family’s past issues of mental problems come back in a bad way. Even her sister fails to believe her, but that may be because Jane doesn’t exactly go about things the right way. She demands attention, she rallies her social media followers, she goes to the news when the cops can’t help her. And the thing is, she just may be relishing all of the attention.

This film makes a big shot by naming itself after an organization, by tacking a hot button issue and by having a heroine who is not always reliable. That’s fascinating because this movie could have very much been a simple I Spit on Your Grave thriller instead of a movie that associates the lack of memory that assault causes and associates it with a monstrous shadow. The police and the way they handle things are just as brutal, if not more, than the creature.

Director Gia Elliot and writer Emma Fitzpatrick have taken some chances here. I really like how everyone other than Jane Doe is only known by their role or their job, as the facelessness of this situation reduces everyone to their most basic roles. This is a movie that made me think long after it was over. That’s the mark of a movie that works.

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