It’s girl vs. boy in this double feature of 1990s thrillers about individuals trapped in a building at night with a murderer. Both Mute Witness and Nightwatch also manage to head in a direction you don’t see coming!
MUTE WITNESS (1995)
In the tradition of movies like Eyes of a Stranger and The Fear Inside comes Mute Witness, which is a great reminder of how thrillers were actually more suspenseful and scary than the “horror” movies coming out pre-Scream.
The opening alone is a perfect homage to eighties killer POV/home invader scenes. Then we get to the real plot. On a film set in a creepy building, a mute special effects chick named Billy is accidentally locked inside after everyone has left. Before she can get out, she witnesses two men who have snuck in to rape and kill a woman for a snuff film.
Holy shit this movie is suspenseful. It feels like it’s going to be one long chase scene with a main girl who can’t even scream for help, but that’s just the first part of the film.
Billy gets out of the building, and even though no one seems to believe her story, she becomes a major target for the baddies for the remainder of the film.
Meanwhile, the only one who doesn’t doubt her for a second is her totally awesome sister. In fact, the sister and her boyfriend put themselves in serious danger to save Bobby from a dark plot to silence her (even though she can’t talk). They even provide playful humor as the film turns into more of an action/suspense film for its second half and Billy is left doubting she can trust anyone.
Nightwatch begins with a series of murders of women; they’ve all had their eyes gouged out and their corpses have been raped. What better time for Ewan McGregor to take a job as a night watchman at a morgue? But, while necrophilia is a running theme in the film and vials of semen play a role (yummy), this isn’t a gore or gross out film.
In fact, it at first feels like it’s going to be a supernatural horror. The retiring guard gives Ewan a tour of the place and offers plenty of creepy stories about what’s gone on there, including implying that the dead bodies come alive at night. We are treated to a number of atmospheric, unsettling situations of Ewan getting the willies while alone on the job. His number of false alarms starts to really tick off the medical examiner in charge, played by horror icon Brad Dourif of Chucky fame.
What’s going on at the morgue becomes nothing compared to what’s happening in Ewan’s personal life as the film progresses. Josh Brolin plays a friend who has some serious emotional issues and proves to be a real (gorgeous) asshole.
Brolin pulls extreme pranks on Ewan, one including a prostitute, which really fucks up Ewan’s relationship with his girlfriend, played by Patricia Arquette. One of the best scenes features Arquette having a close encounter with the killer. EEK!
Meanwhile, Nick Nolte is on the case as the detective, and he begins to snoop around Ewan at the morgue when shit involving the dead bodies (and semen) gets real, at which point Ewan describes the situation to Nolte as being “like one of those movies on the USA Network.” How awesomely 90s is that? But the film actually unfolds more like a psycho killer thriller in the style and tone of old school Brian De Palma suspense mysteries, which is never a bad thing.