Right off the bat: The Night Watchmen is the most fun horror film I’ve seen in years. Director Mitchell Altieri has stuffed into it everything you could ask for in this gleeful, nostalgic horrorromp: gore, splatter, humour, clowns, vampires, and an engaging cast with chemistry, all wrapped up in a killer ’80s hair metal/synth soundtrack. There’s even a couple of character arcs to boot.
Don’t switch off after the first five minutes, otherwise you’ll think this is just another Kevin James-type comedy about old, ugly, fat loser security guards, slutty chicks and lame jokes about fat loser security guards and slutty chicks. Wait for the moment when someone’s asked to clean up a dirty toilet bowl: “Do we look like we’re janitor material? We don’t get paid half of what those guys get,” while one of them grimaces at the thought of ‘dirty shit water sloshing around’ as the camera slowly zooms in on chocolate sauce squeezing out of a bitten doughnut. If you’re not wince-laughing along at that point, this movie is not for you.
Like a bullet, soon after comes nudity, violence, and the first of the infected ‘zompires’. Comedic beats come thick and fast, and most of them work enough to be actual laugh-out-loud-worthy, but there’s so little breathing room that it doesn’t hurt the movie’s momentum if one or two don’t land.
With both a budget and location this small, good performances count for so much more than usual, and the cast has chemistry in spades, coming off as long-term mates. Each character is somehow likably despicable in their own way; they’re affable piles of fecklessness that you can’t help but root for.
Aside from the awkward final shot, editing and photography are lean and sharp, and the fight scenes as efficiently and as humorously choreographed as you would expect from a trio of sedentary office berks: at the first sign of danger, the three set off on a heroic sprint up the back stairs, only to pause and be comically out of breath and sweating before the end of one flight. And our heroes learn fast: one can only imagine the delight that writer duo that Jamie Nash and Dan DeLuca [the latter one of the film’s stars] had while crafting a Buffy-style montage of crafting and suiting up, the inventive use of marijuana, or the ‘why didn’t anyone else do this?’ detail of not being able to see the vampires on the security cameras. Someone hearts their vampire lore.
It’s impossible to overstate just how much fun this movie is. At a brisk runtime of 78 minutes and with repeat-viewing capability, it’s a gem for either a horror movie viewing party or even as a festival closer.