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GONE IN THE NIGHT (2022) review

July 18, 2022


written by: Eli Horowitz and Matthew Derby
produced by: Raphael Margules, J.D. Lifshitz, Shaun Sanghani & Russ Posternak
directed by: Eli Horowitz
rated: R (for language throughout and brief bloody images)
runtime: 90 min.
U.S. release date: July 15. 2022 (theatrical) & August 2, 2022 (VOD)


With “Gone in the Night”, screenwriters Eli Horowitz and Matthew Derby set out to say a few things about the perception of aging within the machinations of a suspenseful yarn. It’s interesting and curious subject matter for a genre that would typically be categorized as a “thriller”, but Horowitz (who also serves as a director) offers something closer to a mystery than a movie that hits the traditional beats of a thriller. Pieces of this odd puzzle slowly fall into place as “Gone in the Night” drops some satisfying albeit relatively predictable revelations as it closes out. It’s a peculiar feature that thankfully is carried by the ever capable hands of its reliable lead.

Looking to reinvigorate the relationship they’ve been in for a little over a year, Max (John Gallagher Jr.) has booked a weekend in a remote cabin in the woods with his girlfriend, Kath (Winona Ryder), hoping a distraction-free environment will put them in a better place. Upon their evening arrival, they find another vehicle parked outside the cabin and a figure in a rain slicker stands outside the door. The couple are told there must be a mix-up with the owner of the cabin, since Al (Owen Teague) and Greta (Brianne Tju), a twentysomething couple, are also booked for this weekend. Kath senses red flags, but it’s way too late to turn back now.



After some awkward discussion between the two unfamiliar couples, Max and Kath are allowed inside and offered a room to stay in for the night in order to sort out the misunderstanding in the morning. With some trepidation on Kath’s part and the more easy-going Max’s reassurance, they stay the night and wind up hanging around, playing board games (one is called, “Pillow Talkers” and is designed to challenge players on their sensuality prowess) and drinking. Kath, who is at least a decade older than anyone else in the cabin, including her boyfriend, and starts to feel a little out of place. Plus, with the game becoming a bit too personal, she excuses herself early and heads to bed.

The next morning, Kath wakes up alone. Max is not beside her and the cabin is empty. She walks outside and starts to follow a path into the woods behind the house and eventually comes across an emotionally distraught Alex, sitting on a collapsed tree. He tells her that Greta and Max hooked up and split. Just like that.

One week later, Kath is back managing her flower shop and still bothered by the mystery surrounding Max’s disappearance. She does some investigating on her own, apparently unaware that just Googling Greta’s name isn’t going to get her very far, and eventually decides to look up the owner of the cabin. She gets Nicholas (Dermot Mulroney) to visit her shop with the impression that Kath has something to discuss with him. When she explains her experience at his cabin, he offers to help her get to the bottom of Max’s disappearance and the two soon warm up to each other and team up for their own investigating.



The bizarre aftermath of the overnight stay at this cabin is in and of itself quite the head scratcher, but Horowitz and Derby set out to explore more than just a missing persons tale. The story splinters after the disappearance, as the writers follow Kath and Nicholas in the present, as well as backing up to Max’s backstory leading up to that fateful night.

This storytelling approach is intriguing at first, in that we learn of the disintegrating dynamics between Kath and Max and how their relationship began to erode naturally due to their differences. Kath is in her fifties and a bit more cautious and mature. There were some initial indications that Kath is self-conscious about her appearance (the camera catches her trying to smooth out forehead wrinkles before she gets out of her car at the cabin), but these flashbacks do spell out the personality differences between Kath and Max, and much of that seems to be due to their age gap. He’s definitely less mature than she is and comes across as an over-sharing borderline man-child, where everything is either a joke or taken lightly. For some reason, Max doesn’t have a valid driver’s license and feels the need to reiterate that Kath is insecure about driving at night. Their differences could be reason enough for him to suddenly bolt, possibly using his immaturity as a reason to do so in such a sudden and extreme manner, but he had it so good with Kath since she was the one doing all the “adulting”.

As “Gone in the Night” branches into these two timelines, there are evident strengths and weaknesses to both, and unfortunately this acknowledgement does indeed lower the overall viewing experience. We learn that Kath was a teacher for a higher education class (likely community college) and that’s how she met Max…he was a student of hers. When she discusses her relationship to Max with a friend her own age, she seems reluctant to go in to her own reservations that she has about them as a couple. Sometimes it’s nice to date someone younger just to be reminded those years and to distract from the one thing in life we can’t do much about: time. With Nicholas, Kath can connect with someone slightly older, putting her in an unexpected position where she’s a little more comfortable in her own skin.



Horowitz also serves as director of “Gone in the Night” and he benefits from having Ryder and Mulroney together, since they’re the two that have the best on-screen chemistry together. While Kath and Nicholas seem to effortlessly hit it off – especially during their scenes together as small town amateur detectives – there’s something a little off about Nicholas. We learn from an encounter he and Kath have with Ramon (Alain Uy), a former colleague of his, that Nicholas walked away from a lucrative business deal that could’ve set him up for life, but now he spends his time as a recluse. This is curious to Kath and she learns that much of his time is spent researching a treatment for an chronic ailment he has. Eventually, both storylines converge, but the how and why they are aligned is quite predictable, leaving very little room for genuine surprises. The only saving grace of “Gone in the Night” is how Ryder conveys Kath discovering the truth and experiencing those surprises.

Sure enough, the film is worth checking out solely for Winona. It’s not that the other actors aren’t any good (it’s a treat to see Mulroney, actually), it’s just a joy to watch what she does with the role. Ryder has been busy with the Netflix global hit “Stranger Things” lately and while it’s been great for a new generation of viewers to embrace her, those of us in-the-know are aware that she’s been a National Treasure for some time now. Ryder definitely rises above the material here, especially what she does as the “Gone in the Night” offers a supposed twisty conclusion. (Here’s a vague hint about the conclusion: the film went by a different title, “The Cow”, when it premiered a couple months back at SXSW)

While the film certainly doesn’t leave viewers with a jaw-dropping reveal, there is a resolution provided at the end. With a few subtleties, Ryder leaves us with an idea what kind of dark turns Kath will pursue. Considering what was hinted at all along with her character, it’s not a shock where the storyline goes. Horowitz may not provide balance throughout, he solidly creates an interest in just exactly how this story will unveil where it predictably will go (if that makes any sense).



RATING: **1/2

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