There is a spark of interesting and creative execution that bubbles up to the surface of Mischief Night every now and again but by and large it is an exercise in boredom and frustration through the bulk of its runtime. The film sports an interesting lead (Noell Coet) with an interesting problem (psychosomatic blindness stemming from a family tragedy) and a potentially compelling threat on her hands (a mysterious masked intruder stalking her) but unfortunately never amounts to much more than a Lifetime movie with a few gory shots for good measure.
The film actually would’ve worked a lot better had it been approached more as a family tragedy drama instead of a invasion-slasher type of horror film. The dynamic between milk toast dad and strong-and-smart daughter could have played out in a more humanistic kind of way without the rush to fling various horror-movie tropes at the audience at the expected times. I’m not saying the film would’ve been an Oscar contender as a dramatic character study (thanks to some clunky performances and stilted dialogue) but it might have been a bit more natural of a fit than the shoehorn-into-horror result it ended up being.
The setup is pretty simple: the blind teenage daughter and her dull-around-the-edges father live in a somewhat secluded home and live a quasi secluded life. The daughter Emily (Noell Coet) tries to convince her father that she’ll be fine and he should go on his planned date that evening. It is mentioned over and over again (or at least it seems like it is) that that night is mischief night, the night before Halloween and that pranks and tomfoolery will abound. With his daughter’s assurances that she’ll be fine (and an overeager boyfriend sneaking in to boot), her father makes his way away for the evening. We’re then reminded (and reminded and reminded and reminded) that there is some kind of badness descending upon poor Emily soon and that she’ll be helpless to defend herself.
Not before, of course, she ‘watches’ a scene from Night Of The Living Dead on TV and then has a bit of a mishap with a glass container in the kitchen. Also a harrowing smoke detector turning off sequence in said kitchen with the aforementioned broken glass on the ground and the intruder lurking nearby. Once she gets the sense that someone is nearby or that something is amiss is quite possibly the only moment in the film that you feel a bit of tension. As you watch this poor hapless girl flail a knife around and shout, trembling into the darkness you really get the sense of fear and danger.
Then that is quickly washed away by what has to be one of the more silly looking home invaders in quite some time. The person or persons taking mischief night way too seriously look like rejects from The Purge dressed up in a Paddington Bear costume. Yes, they’ve intruded into her house. Yes they are proving to be violent and dangerous but it is just so difficult to take them seriously. At this stage the tension lifts and the cat-and-mouse plays out more or less the way you expect it to. Will there be a moment where she can miraculously see again? Will her dimwitted father come back into the picture? Will she survive?
Honestly, once you’ve taken in the yellow jacketed adoreableness that has invaded her life in all its glory and things lurch forward, you’re hope that Mischief Night might turn into a modern-day Wait Until Dark fades. Your only hope from that point until the end is that it doesn’t go through some long expositive reasoning for all this happening to Emily and in that, at least, there is some success in this film. Overall, a bland, by the numbers kind of home invasion film that doesn’t really do anything new despite the somewhat interesting introductory pieces we’re given.