NIGHT OF THE MISSING (2023)
Release Date: 11/28/23 [Screambox]
"Set on a stormy night on Christmas Eve, a small town sheriff who is secretly a serial killer gets a visit from a mysterious woman who tells 4 bizarre stories."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
Anthology features have to have a source, or a connected headliner plotline to bring all the segments together. For Creepshow it was the titular comic book, and for Night of the Missing it's the endless number of missing posters on the precinct wall. Here we have a collaboration of four short film segments with the only shared concept being that by their end, a singular character must find their way onto the wall at Precinct 84.
Anthologies typically have a wide range of short film concepts that will gather an equally wide range of receptions, but there is no such thing as a perfect anthology feature (the closest to it being the aforementioned Creepshow). Although helmed by four directors, Samuel Gonzalez Jr., Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing, and Matthew Hersh, the feature shares a similar tone and twisted sense of humor throughout.
The first segment is Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing’s “We All Scream,” which is a remarkably creepy short that utilizes fantastic practical effects to bring even more terror to the simple fact that a clown hidden in shadow within a sinister-looking ice cream truck is ridiculously terrifying. Led solely by young Joseph Jojo Martinez, the actor delivers in quick succession, providing an evolving profile of a child with selfish intentions, a child fueled by curiosity, and ultimately a child caught in the clutches of a maniacal Mr. Sweetie. This opening story of a young boy becoming a singular piece of the crowded cork board sent shivers down my spine.
From here we move to my personal favorite of the package: “Nite Flirt." It is a dark 1980s-inspired labyrinth of mystery that effortlessly blends the erotic thriller genre with suspense and just a dash of the paranormal. Bill Moseley shines as The Caller, while Gigi Gustin instantaneously entrances with her eerie nightmare.
Gustin’s Tammy Wright is the main attraction here, taking on the sole focus for the majority of the “Nite Flirt” runtime. From her opening scene, dancing with inanimate objects in the kitchen, you can quickly tell something is a little off with the scenario taking place. Obsessed with endless television advertisements, until that’s suddenly withdrawn, Tammy decides to distract herself by becoming a phone sex operator - only to immediately get the wrong caller.
Gustin draws the viewer in for the short time we have with her, leaving us both excited and horrified from the events taking place. Tammy is the perfect representation of an 80s not-so final girl: beauty, charm, and intrigue. If there’s one thing you’ll feel certain about after viewing Night of the Missing, it’s that we need more Gustin in the future of horror.
Departing “Nite Flirt” and launching into “Miniature,” we are drawn into a Tim Burton-esque model town, centering on two individuals who are not like the others. We are dropped into the conclusion of their story, leaving a shocking open-ended mystery to what exactly is transpiring within this model setting. We see a town filled with mannequin beings, representing an ideal life while being trapped all the same. Its direction is haunting and delivers on the eerie nature of the “perfect” town ablaze. This short will leave you with the most questions, but it’ll also allow appreciation for the craft behind this mysterious third act.
All is left to a haunted finale, the funniest of the batch of short segments, while simultaneously being the most violent. Matthew Hersh’s “You Promised” feels prominently out of sequence within the premise of the missing posters, especially with how it’s believed to have concluded. It’s structured around a drug deal gone wrong and the consequences of the mistakes made. It’s a fantastic segment on its own, a comical massacre by an invisible entity with no witnesses left to tell the tale, which leaves the question of who is up on the wall all the more pressing.
Conclusions are ultimately the most difficult element for this particular genre of film, and while it doesn’t entirely pull the finale off without a hitch, it leaves similar to many of our stories; questions unanswered and the opportunity for more to be explored in the future. Among the entire film, the interconnected Precinct storyline led by a sheriff serial killer arc needed a little more bite behind its mystery, especially when the case isn’t truly solved. It’s a fine connector for the stories within, but being the basis behind all the other stories being told, it’s a lacking standalone tale, left to only be the tape that holds it all together as they hang amongst one another on the unsolved cases of the precinct wall.
Samuel Gonzalez Jr.’s Night of the Missing is an immersive horror experience that allows the audience to make their own conclusion of what is truly transpiring. It’s a beautifully crafted, chilling anthology that leaves much open for interpretation and leaves a morbid curiosity of what is next to come for this precinct, or better yet, these filmmakers.