Dick Night is a deeply-unexpected drama/comedy/horror film. It’s raunchy without being crass. It’s rude, but not over-the-top rude. It’s a low-budget indie that punches above its weight to tell a funny story about a woman who’s jonesing for sex, looking for a roommate, and finds herself surrounded by vampires. And guys who are jerks. It’s also got a title straight out of porn, to let you know from the start that it’s got a great sense of humor.
I don’t always type like this, but – c’mon, how awesome/cringe-inducing/awesome again is that poster? In its own way, the title-picture combination is genius, and whoever thought it up deserves a special prize.
What I didn’t expect is that Dick (snicker) uses horror in a way that’s both very minimalist and yet very effective. Some filmmakers find themselves with a skimpy budget, or without the tools to create and film fine special effects. When a filmmaker is smart, creative, and/or has a good crew, they can figure out a way to work around (or through) their weaknesses.
What’s the story? Rachel was abandoned at the alter two months ago. She hasn’t left the house since then, living like a slob in the home she was given as a wedding gift. Surrounded by empty pizza delivery boxes and unopened presents, her mother pushes her to get back into the world. Rachel is feeling restless, though, and comes to the conclusion that she has to have sex to get over all her past problems. Unfortunately, Rachel has a very limited dating pool, filled with deeply-unimpressive men – and vampires are in town.
Dick Night is a refreshing experience because it does exactly that – it dodges its budget in a major, major way when the action gets going. It’s a respectable accomplishment, even while you’re thinking “wow, you decided to film this, even though you didn’t have the equipment people usually use for these scenes.” And, while I was feeling all that, I also realized that these moments also work because they actually put you in the room with these characters.
In the end, a director can show you all sorts of cool things – computer effects are great these days. And if they don’t get the audience interested in the characters, it doesn’t matter at all. Somehow, Dick Night takes the most random and odd set of roles and actually makes sure that you have some real reaction to all of them. They speak like people speak, and they all look… well, they’re actors, so they all have some charisma, but no one looks too attractive. You feel like you’re in a room with real (albeit unusual) people.
I also like the way that DN parcels out, and pays off, the backstory of its lead. On the one hand, it shows that the film has a genuine theme and thesis – it doesn’t lose its focus on the life of our female lead. At the same time, tho, it’s an example of good, effective storytelling.
I have to think part of the appeal of this movie is that, thank heaven, it’s not just another movie about some guy doing stuff. I’m not saying that this picture passes the Bechdel Test – I can barely think of a moment where two women talk about something other than men, but it’s appropriate, since Rachel’s depression comes from being dumped. And forgetting all that, we still have a story about a woman who’s realistically independent, even though everything that she’s going through is about men.
And she isn’t overly- or inappropriately-sexualized, even though her story is about sex. It’s a very smart treatment – and not just a fantasy for the guys watching – that this attractive woman got dumped at the alter and two months later, she needs to feel physically fulfilled. Everyone gets like that, but Rachel isn’t made dirty or cheap just because she has the same needs as most everyone else.
In fact, many jokes come out of the fact that she’s sorta desperate, but can’t completely drop her standards… The worst parts of Dick (snicker) are when you see Rachel really trying to work it with prospective roommate, Dr. Lewis, despite him being written as a boy in man’s clothing. It’s incredible how many things crappy, bro-esque things the Doc can say, and she’s still trying even as she loses some of her motivation. They’re the “worst” because they’re sorta embarrassing, but they’re also pretty true-to-life, and they do make for good comedy.
The night footage shifts between somewhat grainy and “just okay,” but it’s not a problem. Much of the movie has this distinct filter on the lens (I’m pretty sure), so it’s not like you transition from a crystal-clear image to a poorly-lit one. In fact, it’s a good example of the ambition of the filmmakers; they found an acceptable way to film scenes that would require a lot of lighting, otherwise. If you want, think back to all those high-quality, big-budget pictures where they’re obviously shooting day for night – or where the middle of the woods is so bright, you’d think the moon is about 50 feet overhead.
Dick Night isn’t flawless. It’s talky and the action doesn’t come for a long time, and that might be a problem for people. I had no problem with that, though, because of the overall quality of the actors and the script. A lot of moviegoers have forgotten that stories work best when they get you invested in the characters before dropping the action on them like a ton of bricks; Andy Viner didn’t, and that deserves respect.
The larger problem is that 90-minute horror movies don’t tend to save the horror for the last 30 minutes or so. I enjoyed the drama and the comedy of DN, but this picture should be advertised as a comedy first, with horror/thriller listed second, or in parentheses. Certainly the film distributors did market it that way, but the poster and brief story synopsis might make you expect something else.
The scares are good and handled well, but even a lot of slow-burn horror films will show “bad things” happening in the background, reminding the audience that you’re watching something simmer, and it might boil over at any second. Dick (snicker) does the later, but it doesn’t do the former much at all. It’s generally more exciting for the viewer when they at least sort of see the threat approaching. Then again, this pic has plenty of adult, funny scenes to keep you interested in the meantime.
In the end, I had a very good time watching this film. Just as important, I look forward to more from director/writer Andy Viner, Boomie Aglietti (Kyle), Ben Huber (Dr. Lewis), and Jennifer June Ross (Rachel). Ross gets special praise because she does a fine job of carrying this picture, and she has a dead-perfect delivery of every line (funny or not) that she’s given. She’s also very charismatic, even when she looks like she’s not wearing any makeup.
FilmBuff is distributing Dick Night nine days from now, on the 30th of this month. It will be available on ITunes, Amazon Instant, CinemaNow, Vudu, Youtube, Xbox 360, and PS3.