Survive the Night

1 out of 5

Directed by: Matt Eskandari

Spoiler: in a film called Survive the Night, the main characters manage to do so with 30 minutes left of the film through which to trudge. This is rather indicative of how far the scant script is spread across the flick’s hour and a half.

Ostensibly a “home invasion” movie, Survive the Night commits another stretch-this-material maneuver with its first shot, which shows a flash-forward to when discredited doctor Rich (Chad Michael Murray) and his father, Frank (Bruce Willis) are ad hoc home operatin’ on criminal Matt (Tyler Jon Olson); such flash-forwards can work if they present a scenario that demands a “how do we possibly get from A to B?” juxtaposition of events, or creates stakes that makes the lead-in more tension inducing, but… this opening scene presents zero context for the latter, and yet is also so slimly, basely composed to generate zero wonder for the former. Indeed, as soon as we start back in the “present” with Matt and his brother, Jamie (Shea Buckner), post a robbery, discussing what to do with their earnings, clunkily cut with scenes of Rich and his family moving back in with Dad on their farm – during which vague, get-the-job-done details regarding Rich’s loss of status as a doctor are faux-dramatically dribbled in – the rest of the movie essentially is clear: these two will end up at the farm; something will happen requiring that ad hoc surgery. Some moments later, Matt gets shot in the leg. That’ll do.

The plot itself is not the issue – great B-movies and even well-budgeted flicks have worked with similar or less. Rather, it’s the unmotivated way the movie is presented, which suggests elements that are never on screen. The brothers’ chatter about their shaky pasts is intended to deepen their characters; husband Rich and wife bicker over his doctorly fall from grace; father Frank and son butt heads over the way each has led their lives; but we only really know this stuff because it’s presented in exactly the sort of cookie cutter formats we’d expect of any of those throughlines, while there’s not actually any (or much) content to support the intended emotions. So when these things are “resolved” later on, there’s no sense of anything really having changed.

The film is also edited oddly at points. After the aforementioned setup sequences, there are moments of important actions / interactions that seemed to have been cut around, perhaps because budget would only allow for so many takes…? This also leads to a complete lack of logic for some “tense” scenes in which Matt and Jaime chase and / or terrorize the home-invaded family, and for a relatively single-location flick, the rooms of the house never connect in a satisfying visual fashion.

There are a couple of minor positives: Bruce Willis continues to wake up the more of these Emmett / Furla productions he makes, and he is legitimately acting here – after some rough, maybe single-take scenes early on – and making eye contact with his fellow actors and fully integral to the movie, such as it is. There’s also a surprisingly well shot car chase that comes across with proper intensity and a sense of geography to it; perhaps with more money and locations, Eskandari could turn in a more impressive action feature.