If you read enough Yelp or TripAdvisor review, just about any hotel can seem scary. One of two new releases on VOD platforms this week – including Unhuman – The Overnight checks into a familiar horror setting. From The Bates Motel to The Overlook, plenty of horror movies have turned up the scares alongside the turndown service. There’s not much in the way of upfront buzz about The Overnight. And so far, critics haven’t weighed in on this release yet.
En route to a weekend getaway, famous blogger Jessie and her boyfriend, find themselves stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire. With few options, the couple finds an old hotel in a small, seemingly empty town. Their host, Salim, promises them a comfortable stay in a vintage locale. But each passing hour makes the couple increasingly uncomfortable. The other guests, the owner, and the hotel itself – something doesn’t feel right. Is it too late for Jessie and David to ‘check out’?
The Overnight Can’t Bring Together All of Its Plot Elements
In spite of its promising, if not familiar, premise, The Overnight weighs itself down with a lot of problems. First and foremost, Mel Hagopian and Richard Harlost’s story feels a bit all over the map. There’s its haunted hotel setting, complete with creepy kids a la The Shining, alongside a time loop premise. That’s an idea we’ve seen in the Happy Death Day movies and more recent indie efforts (6:45, Triangle). But The Overnight also includes a mystery about its hotel owner and his family as well as a demon on the premises. Maybe. Throw in a creepy fan that seems to serve no purpose but to get our couple to the hotel and yet turns up later anyways and The Overnight feels overbooked.
…The Overnight lacks any kind of internal logic.
Arguably, what worse is that these disparate story elements never coalesce into a coherent plot. You’ll find inklings of interesting ideas that go undeveloped. Yes, a certain amount of ambiguity fosters atmosphere and suspense. What we don’t know is usually scarier than the known. Not everything requires an origin or lengthy exposition. But there was at least a semblance of ‘rules’ that bound the events in The Overlook Hotel, for example. Comparatively, The Overnight lacks any kind of internal logic. Things seem to happen for no better reason than that it’s a horror movie and something eerie needs to happen.
The Overnight Forgot to Stock The Minibar With Scares
For a movie that boasts a stalker, demon, death time loops, mysterious owners, and a haunted hotel, The Overnight isn’t particularly scary. In fact, there’s few scares than horror clichés here. Directors Bobby Francavillo and Kevin Rhoades slow burn the story in it first act. We get to spend a bit of time with our couple, David and Jessie, before they arrive at the hotel. Upon their arrival, The Overnight spends a bit more time establishing that something isn’t quite right. All of this unfolds in the absence of atmosphere or suspense. From that point onward, Francavillo and Rhoades set a sluggish pace that makes The Overnight feel every bit of its 90 minutes.
All of this unfolds in the absence of atmosphere or suspense.
As for the cast, The Overnight’s ‘guest list’ doesn’t include any recognizable faces. Neither Zebedee Row (David) nor Brittany Clark (Jessie) light the world on fire but they’re at least believable as a couple. Once the movie hits its third act and dials up the horror elements, Row and Clark feel stretched in their roles. Likewise Rajeev Varma is suitably mysterious as ‘Salib’ in the early-going, but doesn’t quite convince as the story becomes more demanding. However, the movie’s villains, played by James Lorinz and Justin L Wilson both give wooden performances that drain any potential for tension when it’s needed most.
The Overnight Stays Way Past Its Checkout Time
Though it’s tempting to give The Overnight a pass on the basis of its indie roots, it really doesn’t offer much for horror fans. The story manages to be both a collection of genre clichés and an often formless narrative lacking direction. And glacial pacing exacerbates these problems. None of the performances will turn heads – but some are pretty wooden. Don’t expect much in the way of scares or suspense either. Ultimately, The Overnight is a dull, unimaginative horror movie that stays long past its checkout time.