As far as horror anthologies go, Dead of Night released in 1945 is a gem that seems to have been forgotten about compared to those that would be released in later years like the films from Amicus. Starring a plethora of people in five different stories, they would range from ghosts to possession, the disturbing to the comical and all of it making for a very engaging and enjoyable viewing experience.
It all begins at a cottage where numerous people have gathered for one reason or another and where one man named Walter Craig reveals to them that he has been having strange dreams with all of them taking part. None quite believe the man and while trying to test the man’s knowledge of the events that are taking place, they tell some stories that are just as strange. The first is about a man who gets himself in an accident and sees Death not soon after. When waiting for a bus, he gets the feeling that this could be his last ride should he get onboard and thus avoids it and that fate. A second story details a woman who sees the ghost of a child while a third and an even more atmospheric bit of horror is about a mirror that shows one man a vision of a different room than that in which he stands. The man soon starts to go mad, being overtaken by that which still lives within the mirror and his wife realizes that almost too late. A fourth tale finds a pair of friends torn apart by a woman and they decide to have one final golf game to decide who gets to court her. The loser of the game ends up killing himself and coming back to haunt his friend in a fairly humorous manner. Finally in what is probably the creepiest of the stories is one that details a ventriloquist whose doll may or may not be alive. Even when the story is finished, it is hard to say whether it was or not. In a very innovative twist, the film ends, only to begin again which has to be seen to be believed.
By far, the best vignette of the entire movie was the last one where Michael Redgrave’s dummy was taking on a life of its own though to be fair, each and every one of them was quite strong in their own way. Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne were comedic in their roles as golfers and friends and they played off of each other quite well while Ralph Michael as the man haunted by his mirror gave a captivating performance. Sally Ann Howes was solid as the young woman who has no idea she was just interacting with a ghost while Anthony Baird was really quite good as the man who would avoid the embrace that death would offer. If there was one weakness at all about the entire affair, it was the overarching story that seemed slightly unneeded at first until it redeemed itself in the end, making it a sixth and final tale in itself as the audience would be privy to how this all came about.
What made this movie quite exceptional was the fact that the makers of this film never had to rely on blood or guts or monsters or what have one to tell an effective story, instead relying on some solid storytelling, an atmosphere created by that which permeated horror because of it and some great performances from all involved. Dead of Night is well worth the time and effort to watch, a horror anthology standing alongside the best of them.
4 out of 5