Dead of Night is available to rent or buy now.
Ealing Studios’ horror anthology, Dead of Night, is one of the most remarkable British horrors from the 1940s. Made by four accomplished directors, Basil Dearden, Robert Hamer, Alberto Cavalcanti and Charles Crichton, Dead of Night offers us a compilation of supernatural tales told by guests who gather in a countryside house in Kent, each account framed by an equally chilling, nightmarish overarching story.
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The film feels ten to fifteen years ahead of its time, laying the groundwork for The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) and Tales of the Unexpected (1979-1988). Here all five amazing stories differ stylistically, each portraying a differing angle on the traditional fireside horror tale. The Hearse Driver deals with death and fate, while The Christmas Party is a gothic ghost story. The Haunted Mirror and The Ventriloquist’s Dummy delve into psychology, from pathological jealousy to schizophrenia, with the latter undoubtedly the scariest story of them all. Meanwhile, The Golfer’s Story breaks the cycle as it descends into a rather silly comedy. Not only is this tale not frightening, but it feels like a slightly misplaced light relief from the horror.
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However, the main thread story elevates the film beyond the anthology at its heart as it takes on an important and influential role in joining up all of our deliciously dark tales. Following the last and scariest story, Cavalcanti’s The Ventriloquist’s Dummy, one would assume we have reached the film’s climax. However, the filmmakers were bold enough to intensify the closing story’s horror further. Here, in a brilliant plot twist, the last scene cleverly feeds back to all the tales told beforehand – peaking in a surreal, grotesque and truly chilling montage that leaves us with an urgent need to turn the lights on as soon as the credits roll.