‘We didn’t say nice people, we said Night People’ was the tagline for the 1954 film Night People. But the title and promotional copy both feel just as apt for Gerard Lough’s 2015 horror film, which offers some of the roughness of a low-budget film but gets by thanks to plenty of narrative ambition. Like it or hate it, Night People is remarkably different from most horror fare, and will certainly leave you wondering WTF did I just see?
Some names are dropped, but for once, not too many; there’s name-checks for HP Lovecraft and Clive Barker here, and the British author is the one that gives the clearer indication of what’s going on here. The Green Sea’s venerable Michael Parle plays Mike, who alongside partner in crime Luke (Nigel Brennan) breaks into a remote house with the intention of torching it to ashes. For practical reasons, they have to wait to start the fire, and amuse themselves in Chaucerian style by telling each other stories. There are only two stories within this wraparound, so Night People isn’t an anthology story, but the manner in which the stories are intertwines is what makes this interesting in the manner of Bret Easton Ellis’s The Informers.
The first narrative concerns the discovery of a magical pyramid that works a bit like the Cenobite puzzle boxes in the Hellraiser films; covered with runes, it offers magical powers if used correctly. The second story is about a madam named Faustina (Claire Blennerhassett) who finds herself with a difficult debt to pay; are her controllers vampires? She’s using a Cronenbergian device to drain the blood of the unfortunate men she encounters, but this game proves even more dangerous than it sounds.
As with most low-budget films, Lough’s film does require a certain re-adjustment from the viewer; Lough has directed pop videos, and gets some striking shots, but some scenes inevitably betray a low budget. But you never quite know where you are with Night People, and although the stories all link up thematically and occasionally in terms of the mysterious objects, the tension is maintained until the end. A weird and disturbing late night watch, Night People might well find an audience via streaming in the Candyman reboot era; the Clive Barker vibe isn’t done to death right now, and horror fans should appreciate the dense, original storytelling on offer here.