The Night They Came Home (2024)


The Night They Came Home Review

Starting with The Night They Came Home is difficult. Is it the weird framing device where Danny Trejo plays a grizzled old man narrating the movie to two characters who are otherwise useless? Or perhaps we could start with the film’s odd obsession with turn of the century (when our story takes place) male violence toward women that results in several gratuitous, unconnected to anything scenes of sexual assault? Maybe it’s just the sheer incompetence of the thing at any given moment, like in the climactic shoot out where I’m pretty sure they used a video game sound effect for reloading a rifle.

Actually, yes. Let’s start there. This is a movie without an exterior style a Western shot in dimension deprived scope that suggests no one thought about or paid for any kind of visual language associated with the genre.

Maybe we can use budget as an excuse for why this was so obviously on the cheap. But directors are accomplishing incredible things on minimal budgets all the time now, so that doesn’t fly anymore. And it can’t be blamed on lack of funds causing an abysmal screenplay either, written by John A. Russo and James O’Brien, somehow their script twists what should have been fairly simple into completely incomprehensible. According to The Night They Came Home’s marketing materials, the story is “based on true events” and follows the rise and fall of the Rufus Buck Gang led by scheming Buck (Charlie Townsend), and their relationship with a local sheriff (Tim Abell) who decides to extend his jurisdiction by investigating them.

This is such a weird movie because it seems desperate to split its narrative right down the middle. Neither one of these sides Buck’s gang or the sheriff are even remotely interesting, I think largely because Volk’s directing style appears to have involved calling it after one take of dialogue recitation each day. However, this equivalency between them is telling because our investment will always be weighted toward the downfall of the gang. But despite their violent escapades (sexual and otherwise), Volk and the screenwriters surprisingly approach the climax with something akin to sympathy toward Buck and his men.

Of course, there’s no basis for this The Night They Came Home ends in a sleepy shootout complete with those obviously digital sound effects and no idea how to establish stakes or tension. By the end of the movie we’ve only seen a few familiar faces (in addition to a painfully bored Trejo, there’s Robert Carradine as a potential but doomed source of information and an amusingly top-billed Brian Austin Green cameoing as an early victim of the gang’s terror streak) trapped in a confusing waste of time, money and intelligence.

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