I believe there’s a part of everyone that is slightly envious of night shift security guards. There’s almost no responsibility, you don’t have to deal with many people, and you probably get to wear one of those neat zipper badge things–What’s there not to like? Of course, I suppose there’s always the possibility of a bunch of clown/vampires (clownpires?) invading your office to feast upon the 9to5ers that you so diligently protect. And wouldn’t you know it? That’s EXACTLY what happens in Mitchell Altieri’s The Night Watchmen.
The film follows three security guards (Night Watchmen, if you will) that are in the process of on boarding their newest rookie member. It’s a quiet evening that should be relatively uneventful, but foreshadowing news footage of a Romanian viral contamination that wiped out an entire circus act of clowns lets us know that this evening has more in store for our ragtag group of protagonists than they might expect… or prefer. Once a casket is mistakenly delivered to the guards’ building, all hell breaks loose. Kinda.
Between the film’s ridiculously simple and nonsensical plot and its ever-present toilet humor (literally), it’s easy to see that Altieri and team were pursuing fun over fright. And that’s okay. We’ve seen countless films follow the horror comedy blueprint to great success, but it often feels like The Night Watchmen doesn’t know when to quit. That’s not to say that it didn’t illicit a chuckle or two (or 7) out of me, but more often than not, the comedic elements overstay their welcome and become more awkward and juvenile than clever and entertaining. Combine that with a primary antagonist that seems to vanish in the film’s final act, and you’ve got a film that squanders each and every opportunity it has for greatness. Bonus points for the homages to other genre films sprinkled throughout, though.
It’s not that The Night Watchmen is a bad film, it’s just that it could have been a good film. Set the cast and the occasional gag aside, and there’s very little here that separates this one from an elongated Halloween episode of your favorite office-based sitcom. It’s a mostly fun and always predictable romp that tries a bit too hard to hit its marks. I’m sure several folks will get a kick out of it on some streaming platform or another, but I can’t see much more of a future than that for our ambitionless watchmen. And in the end, that’s probably how they’d want it anyway.
The Night Watchmen [Fantasia Review]