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Nite Owl
1993 - Not Rated - 77 Mins.
Director: Jeffrey Arsenault
Producer: Jeffrey Arsenault
Written By: Jeffrey Arsenault
Starring: John Leguizamo, James Raftery, Caroline Munro, Suzen Murakoshi, Michael Musto, Lisa Napoli,
Review by: James O'Ehley
   
It is 1985, the East Village, New York. But this isn’t the smug, self-confident America of Ronald Reagan. Nor is it Rudy Giuliani’s “Little Singapore” either where reaching for something in the inside of your jacket will get you shot more than 40 times by New York’s Finest.

No, this is instead a grimy Black & White New York that looks more the locales for David Lynch’s “Eraserhead” than anything we’ve ever seen before. Everybody wears black leather jackets and jeans and listens to music that seems . . . well, I dunno, not quite ‘Eighties, but still bad enough to be ‘Eighties music.

Jake (James Raftery) is a hunky vampire who picks up women in night clubs, takes them to his pads (a flat in an abandoned building – JUST WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!) and, while having sex with them, kills them and drinks their blood. No post-coital cigarette here. Instead he chops up his victims afterwards and stuffs their remains into black rubbish bags. Or at least I think they’re black – the movie is after all shot in grainy Black & White.

One night he makes the mistake of killing the sister of one Angel (John Leguizamo), who doggedly begins scouring the neighbourhood for his missing sibling. A confrontation with Angel (insert your own “Buffy” crack here) is looming and to complicate matters, Jake falls for a performance artist whose act involves poetry about gruesome and violent rape fantasies.

It seems like a match made in, uhm, hell – but the ‘relationship’ is cramping Jake’s style. After all, not even avante garde performance artists will take kindly to life partners bringing home nubile young thangs to kill mid-coitus and dismember afterwards.

As far as zero-budget film-making goes, “Nite Owl” – made in 1993 - isn’t too bad. However, that doesn’t make it much good either. I found it as pretentious and shallow as Jake’s performance artist girlfriend. Much of the movie is aimed at shocking one; such as a radio broadcast at the beginning of the movie which recounts a roll call of atrocities – everything from school children being gang raped by fellow pupils to mutilations and murders. It sounds more like South Africa (which is one of the most violent and crime-ridden societies in the world along with Russia and Colombia) than placid First World America.

Shocking the bourgeoisie is easy as even Kurt Cobain admitted – there must be something more insightful to art if it is to last and not merely float along on its reputation to outrage decent public taste of the day. “Nite Owl” (spelled “Night Owl” on the back of the DVD cover) is violent and disturbing, but as to what point?

Initially we are made to wonder whether our hunky vampire is actually that – or merely a disturbed young man. Later on, it is revealed that, well, Jake is really a vampire in the old-fashioned Count Dracula sense of the word after all. But what does that mean? That evil isn’t something that lurks in the hearts if all men, but that one can become evil after being bit by a vampire? That evil is tangible instead of abstract? This is all comic book metaphysics . . .

However, unlike most zero-budget films I have recently seen, “Nite Owl” sports some atmospheric and artsy Black & White photography (contemporary B&W always elevates one’s material me thinks), some decent acting and ambient soundtrack music. Its insights however are shallow and morbid. Some scenes – especially our vampire’s endless nightclubbing – could have been shortened. Some plot points also make no damned sense. However, disturbed Goth kids and angsty art house types (you know who you are) might be intrigued by “Nite Owl” . . .
 
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

 
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