Issue 10: Winter 2012

Amateur Night (2012)

Amateur Night is part of the horror film anthology V/H/S. Each segment is connected not just by genre but also by being shot in unashamedly grungy handheld video and presented as 'found footage'. Tape wrinkle, white noise, tracking issues, blue screen and the appearance of the word 'Play' are used as transitions from shot-to-shot, scene-to-scene. The imagery looks surprisingly acceptable on the big screen - have we become nostalgic for analog in the digital age, or simply acceptlng of low-fi media in its various forms?

Amateur Night is the movie's first segment, a 20 minute film written and directed by David Bruckner. The whole segment is seen from the perspective of Clint, a man wearing glasses with a concealed camera in them while on a drunken night out with his friends Shane and Patrick. They go to a club where Shane flirts with a women called Lisa while Clint has an admirer, Lily. She quietly tells him "I like you" over and over again. But the inebriated Clint fails to really comprehend the oddness of the situation. Shane convinces Lisa to come back to their room while Lily attentively follows Clint. She seems suspicious of the other males, her reactive movements animal-like. At the motel Shane starts groping and kissing Lisa while Patrick, Clint and Lily look on but before too long, she passes out. Frustrated, Shane turns his attention to Lily. They begin to have sex and Lily invites Clint to join them, but he flees to the bathroom. Reacting badly to the alcohol, Clint tries to pull himself together when Patrick bursts through the door with a vicious bite wound on his hand received from Lily. With things clearly getting out of hand, they re-enter the motel room to confront Lily only to discover that she has transformed into a grotesque creature who precedes to rip Shane's body apart...

The slurred, blurred stupidity of the three male characters (well-played by Mike Donlan, Joe Sykes and Drew Sawyer) is uncomfortably believable, at once humorous, moronic, and embarrassing. Bruckner has crafted a disarmingly believable depiction of not just obnoxious drunken behaviour, but also how - and even why - the events would be captured as a 'found footage' piece. The POV camerawork (by Victoria K. Warren) is commendably competent and plausible in its presentation. The shaky nature of the imagery rarely seems obtrusive, while visual distortion is used to advantage. The subtle highlighting via jerky freeze frame and broken timecode of Lily while she hovers in the background of the club watching Clint is particularly effective. Performances are uniformly excellent with a nice turn by Jas Sams as Lisa, but the highest praise most go to Hannah Fierman. With her large, intimidating yet vulnerable eyes, Fierman is mesmerising as Lily. Her repeated pleas of "I like you" to Clint - and, therefore, the viewer - linger long in the mind after the segment reaches its grisly conclusion.

V/H/S screened as part of Twisted Celluloid @ Halloween 2012, Triskel Christchurch.

- Chris O'Neill