Premise: Upon arriving at a remote cabin in the redwoods, Kath (Winona Ryder) and her boyfriend (John Gallagher Jr.) find a mysterious young couple (Owen Teague and Brianne Tju) already there — the rental has apparently been double-booked. With nowhere else to go, they decide to share the cabin with these strangers. When her boyfriend mysteriously disappears with the young woman, Kath becomes obsessed and enlists an unlikely supporter (Dermot Mulroney) with finding an explanation for their sudden breakup— but the truth is far stranger than she could have ever imagined.
The vacation rental industry has boomed with the advent of internet-based home-sharing services like Airbnb. As such, the horror/thriller film industry has capitalized on the population’s willingness to sleep in a stranger’s home by making home-sharing central to suspense plots. Dave Franco’s The Rental explores this concept well enough and the upcoming film Barbarian looks to play in that vacation rental horror arena as well.
Eli Horowitz’s Gone in the Night is another such movie. But instead of playing into the suspense of strangers in a stranger’s house, the film is a slow-burn, introspective drama with a mystery at its center. Winona Ryder stars as Kath, a woman whose boyfriend Max (John Gallagher Jr) runs off with a woman in their double-booked remote vacation rental. As Kath works to find answers about Max’s abrupt departure from the relationship, she befriends and bonds with the property’s owner (Dermot Mulroney).
The film’s biggest strength is in the pseudo meet-cute and amateur sleuth plot line that develops between Ryder and Mulroney’s characters. The juxtaposition of this burgeoning bond with the slightly May-December relationship of Kath and Max gives the post-breakup grief Kath experiences more texture. Kath losing Max to a younger woman forces her to reflect on the relationship in the context of a growing bond with a man of a more contemporary age.
Of course, Gone in the Night is a thriller with an engaging mystery. As Kath seeks answers by tracking down the woman who stole her boyfriend, the audience is treated to flashbacks depicting both couples before the fateful vacation. As the story unravels, we’re privy to details that escape Kath. This hammers home the suspense well as the film ramps toward a surprising third act. And while there are some iffy bits of aloofness between some characters and a couple leaps in logic to advance the plot, the film holds your attention firmly in place.
When Gone in the Night does reveal the full scope of its story in its finale, it lands hard enough and dark enough to leave a distinct impression and leave the audience disturbed. Even though some of the details are explained away with a spout of dialogue that asks you not to think too hard about the mechanics of what’s going on, if you can suspend your disbelief long enough, the character motivations will carry you through the movie.
Gone in the Night is a nice blend of character drama and thriller mystery. It doesn’t disappoint in its resolution, as long as you buy into a relatively outlandish premise. Anchored by strong performances by Winona Ryder and a calm and cool Dermot Mulroney, Gone in the Night is a solid entry in the growing vacation rental suspense niche of the thriller genre.
Gone in the Night opens in theaters July 15th, 2022.
About the Writer: Matt Hurt is the creator of ObsessiveViewer.com. He also created, hosts, and produces The Obsessive Viewer, Anthology, and Tower Junkies podcasts. He is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association and lives in Indianapolis with his cat Pizza Roll.
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