(director: Alan Scott Neal; screenwriter: Taylor Sardoni; cinematographer: Andrey Nikolaev; editor: Nathan Whiteside; music: Alan Palomo; cast: Jessica Belkin (Nancy Osborne), Jeremy Sisto (Edward Osborne), Sebastian Delascases (Cash), Michael Giannone (Coop), Taylor Kowalski (Jake Collins), Brian Wolfe (Jackson), Joji Otani-Hansen (Bobby), Sam Slater (), Jack DiFalco (Petey), Tara Raani (Tabitha), Christopher M. Lopes (Patsy), Doug Sakmann (Line Cook),  Glen Gould (Sheriff Brooks); Runtime: 81; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Daniel Brandt, Cole Eckerle, Michael Giannone, Phil Keefe, Levon Panek, Taylor Sardoni, Sam Slater; Bad Grey/AC3 media-Burn Later Productions; 2023)

“It seems dumb, as if it could play as 1980s drive-in fare.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Former casting maven Alan Scott Neal, in his first feature film, directs this bloody home invasion styled horror story, set over one night, that has an overcooked and twisty non-linear script by Taylor Sardoni. It seems dumb, as if it could play as 1980s drive-in fare.

Because her father Edward (Jeremy Sisto) owns the small-town roadside diner, the sharp-tongued and unlikable 20- year-old Nancy (Jessica Belkin) is the manager, who is upset to be working the night shift as her widowed dad leaves her in charge while he goes out on a date.

After clashing during the third shift with the hostile druggie cook Jake (Taylor Kowalski), supposedly her friend but who disobeys her. So in an angry moment she fires him. He gets the other male workers at the Fat Bottom Bistro, that include the soft-boy waiter Bobby (Joji Otani-Hansen), he’s the one who might have made Nancy pregnant, and the Down syndrome busboy Petey (Christopher M. Lopes), to walk-out with him in support.

The film opens with a 911 call by Jake saying the manager is bleeding badly and there are dead bodies strewn all over the diner.

Then flashing back 24 hours to do it again, as the low-budget film serves up the same meal (story) again. This filming technique, just to show the POV of the gang of attackers is not the same POV as Nancy’s, puts a damper on the story’s rhythm.

Trouble begins when four local dirt-bikers, looking for trouble, ride around the parking lot and enter the diner wearing Halloween masks. But as Nancy threatens to call the cops, the boys leave. But they soon return during the night as promised, with Nancy alone in the front and only the line-cook (Doug Sakmann) in the back grill.
Seeing Nancy use her wits to fight for her life was undercut by its questionable do-over filming technique.

It pretends to have something to say about random violence, as in a ham-fisted way it points out how easy it is for violence to kick-in to today’s thin-skinned America, where male toxicity reigns and things are dour because there’s a lack of empathy for others. It tells us in a simplistic way we have reached the “last straw,” and there’s hope if we only change our ways or fight back. Thereby we might survive and not have to accept violence as a fact of life.

The musical score by Alan Palomo and his electronic band Neon Indian, at least, keeps things buzzing with its cool synth-wave soundtrack.

It played at the Beyond Fest in Los Angeles.

REVIEWED ON 11/24/2023  GRADE: C