A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie is clearly on the side of the women, but the message seems to boil down to "Be ready at all times, and trust no one." The coda in the police station might add another layer by suggesting that women don't necessarily need to be vigilant and violent, but that they also don't need to be afraid of men or settle for what men are offering.
Positive Role Models
Military trained and hyperalert to anything that seems out of place, Tess heroically leads the charge and saves the day (even though some people are killed). But there are drawbacks. And despite her skill and achievements, Tess doesn't seem very happy. It must be exhausting being constantly on guard and ready for attack, and it doesn't seem like much of a life.
Eight female main characters are a strong, diverse bunch. Maggie Q was born in Hawaii to a Vietnamese mother. Mia, played by Gia Crovatin, is queer and admits that she has a "big crush" on Tess; they later hold hands. Kirstin Leigh (Esther) is of Korean descent. Highdee Kuan, who plays Tess's sister, Rose, is Asian. Black actor Ito Aghayere (Noelle) has Nigerian roots. The ethnic background of Roshni Shukla, who plays Divya, isn't specified. Tess works with a Black female lawyer (Treisa Gary). White male characters make racist remarks (e.g., in a mini-mart: "I don't think we got one of them international aisles," or "you're not gonna let some Black chick tell you what to do"). The men here are all one-dimensional brutes, viewing women as inferior objects to terrorize or conquer.
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Violence & Scariness
Strong, bloody violence, much of it directed against women. Many characters killed. Dead bodies. Gushing blood, blood spurts, blood spatter, bleeding wounds. Characters shot and killed with arrows. Arrows through eyes, chest, etc. Woman's throat sliced. Man's genitals sliced with potato peeler (nothing graphic shown). Character stabbed with pitchfork. Person struck in the back with ax. Character bashed in head repeatedly with small statue. Character stabbed in neck with knife; others also stabbed. Character killed with plastic bag over head. Brief fighting, kicking, struggling. Sexual threat. Arguing.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Racy sex talk during a party game ("hand job," "Mile High Club," "sex on a carnival ride," "d--ks in my mouth," etc.). A woman wears a large, comic inflatable penis. Male stripper removes clothing down to skimpy underwear. A banner reads "Same Penis Forever" (indicating marriage). Brief, mild flirting and romance. Woman pretends to flirt with and seduce villain to get the upper hand.
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Extremely strong, constant language: "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," "bulls--t," "t-ts," "c--t," "c--k," "a--hole," "bitch," "goddamn," "dammit," "hell," "piss," "d--k," "idiot," "oh my God."
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Products & Purchases
Various brands visible in background of mini-mart: Coca-Cola, Taki's, Haribo, etc. Character drinks a Corona beer.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Villains sell drugs; mention of meth. Women buy alcohol in a mini-mart and drink during a bachelorette party, though no one seems drunk. Main character is a recovering alcoholic who has just earned her six-month sobriety chip. A character tries to get her to have a drink to "loosen up." She opens a beer but resists drinking it. At the very end, she grabs the beer and takes a gulp.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Fear the Night is a home-invasion thriller about a military-trained woman named Tess (Maggie Q) who attends her sister's bachelorette party and leaps into action when crossbow-wielding villains attack. It's bare-bones and simplistic, but it's also brutally effective, tackling themes of violence and female empowerment in a blunt, primal way. Violence includes women in peril and being attacked and killed, plus sexual threat, dead bodies, lots of blood, arrows piercing body parts (including eyes, throats), throat-slicing, stabbing, people being hit with blunt objects and with axes and pitchforks, a man's genitals getting mutilated with a potato peeler (nothing graphic shown), and more. Language is extremely strong and constant ("f--k," "s--t," "t-ts," "c--k," "c--t," etc.), and there's racy sex-related dialogue and sexual imagery. The main character is a recovering alcoholic who's tempted by drinking during the party, and villains sell drugs. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Bare-bones and somewhat simplistic, Neil LaBute's home-invasion thriller is still sharply effective, touching on themes of violence and female empowerment in a blunt, primal manner. Since the beginning of his career, LaBute has explored the more toxic side of male-female interactions, but with Fear the Night, as in House of Darkness, he uses genre to make his point with more brute force. He spends a little time setting up the characters' sisterly dynamic, as well as Tess's ever-alert paranoia and hair-trigger defense mechanisms, before the first sudden violence occurs.
The attacks are swift and cruel, never sustained fights meant for thrills. We're meant to feel the brutality here. Maggie Q plays Tess like a coiled spring, but with a hint of weariness. She really wants to relax and be human, but -- like Jamie Lee Curtis's older Laurie Strode in Halloween -- she can't let her guard down. The men here are all one-dimensional brutes, viewing women as inferior objects to terrorize or conquer. One of the most potent scenes is the movie's end coda, in which a male sheriff listens to -- and scornfully disbelieves -- Tess's story. What, the movie seems to be asking, has really changed? Fear the Night isn't subtle, but it packs a punch.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.