Directed by Grant McPhee and written by Megan Gretchen and Chris Purnell, Night Kaleidoscope is unlike most films you've ever seen - and that is not necessarily a compliment. While we all (I hope) have a small place in our hearts for even the oddest of the art house films, McPhee pushes that tolerance over the edge in a film that not only rips off, Sherlock and Hannibal but also Neon Demon, Jim Jarmusch, and every pretentious 90's Calvin Klein perfume commercial ever created. Night Kaleidoscope feels like someone did a shit ton of ecstasy and decided to make an hour and thirty minute long Bauhaus video circa 1988. The film proves that you can only balance on the edge of that Argento "style over substance" for only so long before Tenebrae becomes Mother of Tears.
It's clear from the get go that McPhee is out to make a different type of vampire film and his ambition is to certainly be admired. But rather than creating something unique, he's simply borrowed from every worn out indie vampire procedural film stereotype. The character development, what little there is, is relegated to the tertiary territory of the film coming in well behind the lens effects and the score. A score which admittedly, when you hear it for the first time is pretty damn cool. It's a theremin dominated throwback to those weird giallo scores of the 70's. But an hour and a half in with just the same themes repeating themselves over and over again and your head starts to feel like it's being beaten in with a synth sledge hammer.
There are kernels of interesting ideas buried in Night Kaleidoscope. Gretchen and Purnell's script makes allusions to the vampires being "protected on high" as some sort of government conspiracy. The loss experienced by the vampire couple when they are separated is almost heartbreaking despite their antagonist label. Those moments are few and far between though buried in effects and thumping bass. They are treated like an after thought, simple hackneyed plot devices that go nowhere satisfying.
For those of you out there who need a certain amount of blood and gore to achieve satisfaction from your horror, Night Kaleidoscope delivers. There is plenty of bloody sinewy tearing goodness. Understand the package it comes in though. this isn't 10,000 Maniacs. It's inherent nastiness wrapped in a weird, mind bending, package that may be more off putting than inviting.
Night Kaleidoscope may find a home with a very niche audience. It's not a film that's going to be easily accessible to most of the general horror viewing public. There are some decent nuggets buried under the sledgehammering synth sound and distorted lens features. It's just not enough to add up to anything more than a blatant attempt to make something "different." Check it out if you are looking for something that values style over substance, but for those of you who are more into a straight forward film making style, you may want to pass on this one. The film is currently available on Amazon and streaming free of those of you who have Amazon Prime. If it sounds like your cup of tea, check it out and support independent horror.
1 and 1/2 * out of *****
That's it for me. As always, thanks for reading and "enjoy every sandwich."