DEAD NIGHT aka APPLECART (2017) Reviews and overview


‘Look deeper’

Dead Night is a 2017 American horror film directed by Brad Baruh [as Bradford Baruh] (director of Night Drive; producer of John Dies at the End) based on a story and screenplay co-written with Irving Walker. Executive-produced by Don Coscarelli (John Dies at the End; Bubba Ho-Tep; Phantasm franchise). Formerly known as Applecart

The movie stars Brea GrantAJ Bowen, Sophie Dalah (Night Drive; Satanic), Daniel Roebuck and Barbara Crampton.

The soundtrack score was composed by Joseph Bishara (The Curse of La Llorona; The Conjuring and sequels; Insidious and sequels; et al).


After James Pollack’s terminal cancer diagnosis leaves the family reeling, his adoring wife Casey is willing to try anything in the search for a cure. Loading up their two teenage kids Jason and Jessica, and Jessica’s best friend Becky Lane, the family treks to a remote cabin in Oregon for some recuperation. The cabin is built on iron-oxide, with alleged healing properties, and Casey is anxious for this alternative treatment to work.

As the family settles into the rustic cabin, a shroud of snow beings to fall, beckoning James outside in the search for firewood. Instead of kindling, James encounters an enigmatic woman passed out in the snow. Bringing her to the cabin for help, the family has no way of knowing that the woman’s presence is the catalyst for a series of events that will change their lives forever…

Reviews [contain spoilers]:

“Though the mystical elements of Dead Night are rather vaguely explained, some delightfully gross creature effects do most of the talking on that front […] All you really need to know is that while things do get messy rather quickly, Crampton’s able to bring just as much cringe-inducing terror to a scene where she’s playing an unwanted house guest as she does to any involving bodies and sharp objects.” io9

” …the movie oozes eerie atmosphere and sinks its teeth into you. The topics of family dynamics, politics, illness, crime, the veracity of reality television, and one or two traditional horror elements that shouldn’t be revealed here are mixed together into a unique blend. Ambitious and nicely creepy, Applecart is one to seek out.” The Aisle Seat

“Without giving away spoilers, I have to give a nod to a couple of jaw dropping transformation sequences that would make Rick Baker proud. Paired with impressive physical acting by the performers, the creature sequences in the film are outstanding. From demonic disfigurement to full on splatter, the gore factor in Applecart is just right without completely jumping the shark.” Ain’t It Cool News

“Unfortunately, the little suspense that the film manages to drum up is quickly snuffed out as the messy yet somehow still very predictable story unfolds. The creatures in the woods cease to be frightening as soon as they remove their masks, the music feels off and far too ground for such a simple feature…” Bloody Disgusting

“Screenwriter Irving Walker has a decent idea to develop, approaching slasher cinema from two perspectives, while adding some monstrous events to keep things comfortably growly and gross. And there’s help from actress Barbara Crampton, who seems to be having genuine fun in a villainous role, giving the feature some needed eccentricity.”

“I didn’t see Dead Night under its Applecart incarnation, although I kind of wish I had. Mostly because Dead Night is so incomprehensibly conceived, I’m morbidly curious how much worse Applecart possibly could have been. No amount of retooling can salvage a watchable film out of scrap when the core story and available footage are this fundamentally flawed.” Culture Crypt

Dead Night borrows the tropes of ancient folklore and mixes in a dose of something closer to science fiction. Good performances make us care about the central couple and, though them, for a group of teenagers who haven’t the first clue how to look after themselves when things get nasty. Crampton is on fine form, sexy and dangerous and expert at delivering emotional non-sequiturs that throw everybody off balance.” Eye for Film

“Aside from the devilish Crampton, Dead Night strengths lie in its gore work. Though certainly stretched by a rather limited budget, the effects team have worked well. Granted, they are a little patchy in places (due to the restricted funding no doubt), but they attack the film with gusto and pull off a few great sequences.” The Hollywood News

Dead Night has echoes of the usual suspects (notably The Evil Dead) but quite cannily covers its exposition via a faux “Inside Crime” TV show (hosted by the excellent Daniel Roebuck) unravelling the past horrors and running parallel to the modern-day narrative. It makes evocative use of the wintry backdrop and, best of all, delivers some excellent jaw-ripping practical gore and old-school bladder-FX during the big finale.” Horrorscreams Videovault

“Overall Dead Night is a fantastic and nightmarish descent featuring strong performances from its cast and great makeup and gore. There’s a transformation scene at the end that is a bone cracking, skin splitting, bloody masterpiece — a nice cherry on top of this awesome film.” Morbidly Beautiful

“With a more polished script, and more fully developed narrative, this could have easily achieved that midnight madness feel. It’s a rocky debut for Baruh, but one that shows great potential. Applecart is worth a visit for Crampton’s glorious villainous turn and some fun practical creature and gore effects. Just don’t expect a fully fleshed out story or any real explanation to what happens.” Modern Horrors

Dead Night is a firmly middle-of-the-pack bit of low-budget genre work with one hell of an opening, a committed leading performance, some sloshy old-school practical effects, and a decent idea or two. But it also bogs itself down with weirdness, eventually becoming confused and silly above all else.Ready Steady Cut!

“One narrative gambit that does work—to a point—is the conceit of interweaving the story of what actually happened to Casey and her family with a true-crime show rehashing of the incident that bears only the slightest traces of what really went down. This is amusing for a little bit…”

It’s a battle between two females with the men as supporting characters this time. Baruh and cinematographer Kenton Drew Johnson (John Dies At the End) create a great background for this conflict. The woods look beautiful, ice cold and menacing. Just like Crampton’s character. Dead Night is a fun supernatural shocker…” Voices from the Balcony

” …what initially seems to be a relatively standard psycho killer flick with obvious echoes of The Shining packs in demonic/witchcraft elements. Questions can doubtless be raised as just how much sense any of it really makes, but I’d argue that’s hardly the point. Debutante director Bradford Baruh and company seem to be aiming for a mind-bending nightmare atmosphere, and they’re largely successful.” Warped Perspective

Choice dialogue:

Lily Lane: “The ritual’s almost complete.”

Cop: “Mam, put down the axe.”

Main cast and characters:

Brea Grant … Casey Pollack – All the Creatures Were Stirring; The Devil’s Dolls; Beyond the Gates
AJ Bowen … James Pollack – Edge of Insanity; You’re Next; Among Friends; House of the Devil; Creepshow III
Barbara Crampton … Leslie Bison – Death House; We Are Still Here; Re-Animator; et al
Sophie Dalah … Jessica Pollack
Elise Luthman … Becky Lane
Joshua Hoffman … Jason Pollack
Daniel Roebuck … Jack Sterling – Wild BoarPenance Lane; Phantasm: Ravager
Joy Osmanski … Mika Shand
Kay D’Arcy … Lily Lane
Sky Soleil … Detective Walker
Alexander Ward … Crone
Dianna Miranda … Dr Cynthia Ramsey
Alison Haislip … Jenni Whitmore
Ryan Schwartzman … Karl Durant
Shauna Case … Amanda Tate

Running time:

86 minutes

Filming locations:

Lake Tahoe and Los Angeles


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