Horror 365, Movie 14: Dead Of Night (“The Christmas Party”)

Yesterday’s post was a bit lengthy, so this will be a fairly quick one. As with the “All Through The House” segment of Tales From The Crypt, there’s also a brief christmas episode related by Sally O’Hara in Dead Of Night. Let’s start with the fact that I love this movie. It’s an early (but not the first) horror anthology film. The two I can think of the precede it are silent, so it’s fair to say that Dead Of Night definitely helped popularize the concept.

The framing device is first rate. Mervyn Johns (you may recall him from Scrooge with Alastair Sim) plays Walter Craig, an architect stopping by Foley mansion for a renovation consult, but something is amiss. The house and everyone he meets in it he recognizes from a dream. This spurs a discussion about paranormal experiences, and each guest at the house relates a story.

Simple. Even elegant.

It’s Sally O’Hara’s story that’s of interest here. It involves an experience she had at a christmas party. She and her peers decide to play Sardines, a variation of Hide And Seek in which one person hides. When someone finds the hider, they hide together until someone else finds them, etc. etc. until they’re packed in like sardines. Cute.

Sally is the first to hide. She is found by Jimmy, and they scurry off to a better spot. In the ensuing commotion, Sally gets separated and finds a nursery where a little boy is curled up in a chair crying. It’s a brief segment, and I won’t spoil it because, if you’ve never seen it, Dead Of Night is an awfully fun watch.

By today’s standards, Dead Of Night is also pretty tame, but it more than makes up in atmosphere what it lacks in violence, gore, and jump scares. There’s plenty of creepiness to go aroundd. Without going into too much detail, the way in which the framing device comes full circle is very clever. I’d love to explain why, but, again, I really don’t want to spoil the fun of this one.

Fans of The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Tales Of The Unexpected, and Roald Dahl will probably get a kick out of Dead Of Night. I’d go so far as to say it’s pretty entertaining, family-safe fare.

Oh the irony.

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