Take Back the Night is a brutal societal self-reflection of how sexual assault victims are abused by the very process that’s supposed to aid them. Crafted in a manner unique from other films of similar subject matter, director Gia Elliot underscores how the initial attack can sometimes be only the beginning. Sadly, this is usually a frightening, isolated road to recovery and justice, and Take Back the Night speaks to our need to fix this broken system.
Take Bake the Night begins at an art gallery party, where paintings by budding artist and famous influencer Jane (Emma Fitzpatrick) are sold. After escorting a fellow drunken influencer to her ride, Jane finds herself locked out of the party with a dead cellphone battery. While looking for a way out of the alley, she is brutally attacked by a shapeshifting, foul-smelling beast, leaving her in shock at a local hospital. A detective (Jennifer Lafluer) takes Jane‘s story down but begins to doubt her as Jane’s believes a “monster” caused her injuries.
“…a brutal societal self-reflection of how sexual assault victims are abused by the very process that’s supposed to aid them.”
Her oft-absent sister (Angela Gulner) arrives to help Jane through the process of healing, though she lets her own doubts about the situation known, asking Jane to not put herself at risk via her influencer career. The “monster” is not finished, however, as the injured and demoralized artist is attacked once again. Jane reaches out into her internet world for others, finding countless other women who can describe the beast and the injuries it causes, including a half-moon scar on the wrist. Ignoring warnings that the beast will return until she is dead, and facing a barrage of ugly publicity accusing her of lying, Jane sets out to prove she isn’t crazy.
Everywhere Jane looks for help, she only finds doubt. The Sister, unhappy with her life choices, scolds her for the public and “dangerous” lifestyle she lives. The fans that follow her call the attack a cry for attention. Detectives, hamstrung by budgets and bosses, pick apart the events of attacks in order to weed out cases that could “potentially” go nowhere, all with an endgame unlikely to find and punish the attacker. Even the local media dig into Jane’s past to unearth stories of mental health issues within her family. Put elegantly by Jane as she changes a flat tire, “…no matter how much a damsel in distress you may actually be, chances are nobody is coming to save you.”
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Writer/director Gia Elliot made several fascinating, and unique, choices in Take Back the Night. For example, Jane is the only character given a name, as others are referred to only as “the sister”, “the detective”, etc. The name Jane in itself is in reference to Jane Doe, as her online screen name appears as JaneDoeDoes. Aside from a sleazy husband at the rave, with who Jane has a sexual encounter in the restroom, men are almost completely absent from the film.
Not much is left to interpretation, as even the name of the film mirrors a charitable organization created to aid victims of sexual and domestic abuse. Emma Fitzpatrick, who also co-wrote the film with Elliot, captures the pain and desperation of an assault survivor pleading to be heard. Jane is a complex character and Fitzpatrick excels with her performance as a strong, independent woman who demands not to be defined by her attack.
Already a vivid depiction of this upsetting reality, Take Back the Night pushes a little too far into over-the-top territory when the local media becomes involved. Jane accepts an invitation to tell her story on television, where the host takes advantage of the situation to humiliate her for her mother’s mental illness. The host asks pointed questions about why she would make this assault up, assuming her story is a fabrication of an abused mind. While it maybe was used as a metaphor for our culture’s desire to victim blame, this felt a little out of place in a movie so emotionally heavy. An exaggerated look at our media when our media needs no exaggeration.
Take Back the Night is most likely a one-time watch film. It’s absolutely not something you would describe as “a fun time”. But to be clear, that’s not meant as a detriment. The film is a raw, unfiltered spotlight on a serious problem we face, and we shouldn’t shy away from that. The horror isn’t found in the CGI cloud monster that attacks Jane, but rather the chilling response from everyone around. Similar in a way to George A. Romero’s The Crazies, the real monsters are…well…actually real.
“…a raw, unfiltered spotlight on a serious problem we face, and we shouldn’t shy away from that.”
From Dark Sky films, you can see Gia Elliot’s Take Back the Night in select theatres and on Digital Platforms beginning March 4th. Be sure to let us know what you thought of this challenging film over on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.
Review: TAKE BACK THE NIGHT (2022)
Take Back the Night is most likely a one-time watch film. It's absolutely not something you would describe as "a fun time". But to be clear, that's not meant as a detriment. The film is a raw, unfiltered spotlight on a serious problem we face, and we shouldn't shy away from that. Jane is a complex character and Emma Fitzpatrick excels with her performance as a strong, independent woman who demands not to be defined by her attack.