Horror In Short: Joop Fragale’s ‘Date Night’
Horror in Short: Date Night
Directed by Joops Fragale
Produced by Michael Long
Starring: Erin Nicole Cline, David Fuit
Review by Marc Patterson
Director Joops Fragale (Simone) has finished his new short film Date Night, the fourth installment in his four part “Love Gone Bad” series. As fair warning (the same warning Joops gave me), Date Night isn’t purely a horror flick, but more like a dark thriller. Fair enough. After seeing Simone (check that out here), I was anxious to see what else he had come up with. I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed by any means.
Date Night follows a young nameless female, portrayed by Erin Nicole Cline, who while home alone in her apartment one evening is startled to find a good looking, and well put together man sitting on her couch. At first her reaction is appropriate. I mean, you find a stranger in your apartment and try not to trip out. However, the man (David Fuit) remains calm, if not a tad creepy, as he tosses some seductive comments her way. A couple minor FX indicate a slight blurring from Erin’s point-of-view and give the hint that something greater is at play, but we’re going to have to wait to understand that. We watch as this soon-to-be “date night” turns into a nightmare.
In Simone I compared Fragale’s directorial style to something similar in DNA to Jess Franco, or what might have been a more apt description – Jean Rollin. Simone was an erotic horror flick full of supernatural happenings. Here in Date Night the same sensual undertones are prevalent though played down, since again – this isn’t straight up horror.
One of the things that I love the most about short films is how imagery plays a more important role than dialogue. The spoken word is present to support a larger visual story that is taking place. When you have a character driven story you need to have strong actors who can sell the audience through their physicality rather than spoken narrative. Joops hits it out of the ballpark in picking his cast.
Joops again works with Erin Nicole Cline (Simone), who is simply wonderful to watch on screen. Her acting is believable (and being that she’s so easy on the eyes doesn’t hurt anything either). For me though it was her small mannerisms that brought her character to the life in a way so many big name actors fail to. The way she stood at the corner telling David’s character not to go anywhere, and then tapped her fingers on the corner before quickly disappearing, or the way in which she bit her lip while completely smitten with this strange suitor. In a short film environment you get so little time and space to really connect with the audience and these small details really helped flesh out this character.
Equally impressive was David Fuit, the mysterious man who shows up in her apartment unannounced. He seems to embody this Matthew McConaughey vibe of coolness as he seduces Erin’s character. His suaveness leads to a sense of viewer trepidation, as we instinctively know that all is not as it seems. Ultimately this sells the dark side of the film with a twist in behavior that’s completely unexplained until the final shocking moments. And I really mean it when I say shocking. Date Night takes an abrupt left turn off a steep cliff into the land of “Holy shit! What the fuck just happened!” – in a good way of course.
From a technical vantage point Joops handles nearly every aspect of the filmmaking, and Date Night doesn’t fail to disappoint. Story wise there were some minor flaws, but thanks to the colorful presentation on screen this was one glossy bit of filmmaking that really popped and pulled the viewer in. Usually I’m a bit more harsh on digital filmmaking, but there was a warmth to the film that showed the upsides of digital cinematography. Equally, the editing was sharp and the pacing pitch perfect to keep this short moving without wasting any time.
Now with two solid shorts back to back Joops Fragale is officially on my “watch list”. Given he keeps to the same topicality moving into the future I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see some feature work emerging. Date Night was an entertaining and enjoyable thriller, with some truly horrifying and shocking elements, that as with Simone, had me wanting to see more once the credits rolled.