Night Time

Aslick contempo werewolf tale that could use a little more narrative flesh to chew on, German "Night Time" holds interest without ever quite building a full head of suspense or delivering sufficient payoff. Fast-paced, sometimes witty, Peter Fratzscher's feature breaks from genre convention by eschewing most onscreen violence (though not its aftermath gore). Pic could actually use a longer running time to deepen characters and expand some promising but underdeveloped plot ideas. Offshore, it might lend itself easily to dubbing for the vid-rental market.

With:
Thomas ..... Jan Josef Liefers Eschenbach ..... Ulrich Muhe Alexandra ..... Marie Baumer Becker ..... Christoph Waltz Graf ..... Peter Lohmeyer Lasinger ..... Burkhard Driest Voss ..... Andreas Hoppe Grandmother ..... Tilly Lauenstein Bernbeck ..... Michael Gwisdek

Aslick contempo werewolf tale that could use a little more narrative flesh to chew on, German “Night Time” holds interest without ever quite building a full head of suspense or delivering sufficient payoff. Fast-paced, sometimes witty, Peter Fratzscher’s feature breaks from genre convention by eschewing most onscreen violence (though not its aftermath gore). Pic could actually use a longer running time to deepen characters and expand some promising but underdeveloped plot ideas. Offshore, it might lend itself easily to dubbing for the vid-rental market.

Nils-Morten Osburg’s screenplay riffs on various classic myths and fairy tales, while recalling other recent lycanthropy pics, notably “Wolfen” (for its deadpan humor) and in particular the Jack Nicholson vehicle “Wolf.” Like the latter, story has some fun at expense of a snobbish literary world, as affable would-be novelist Thomas (Jan Josef Liefers) struggles to get a break while day-jobbing as a sound-synch technician for dubbed genre pics — mostly horror, of course.

A flirtation with bookstore employee Alexandra (Marie Baumer) gets him introduced to two rather sinister, not to mention ruthlessly critical, bigwigs in the publishing biz.

But Thomas soon has more pressing concerns. Leaving his car after a road-kill accident, he’s bitten by something large and hairy. Then his grandmother — who lives in a country cottage Little Red Riding Hood might have visited — is found “torn to pieces.” As additionalbodies pile up, Thomas suspects himself; but is he really turning beastly under the moon or is he just being delusionally swayed by an ill-explained “werewolf phenomenon” that’s all the rage in local pop culture?

Climactic revelation of the true fiend counters the presumption of supernatural forces at work, but that doesn’t disappoint so much as pic’s many red herrings and overall sketchy, too hasty progress, which suggests overkill in the editing room. Pic often seems to jump a step or two ahead of itself to maintain hectic pace; that tact leaves various potentially juicy characters and thematic quirks undercooked.

Suspense, too, would benefit from a more leisurely approach, as Alexandra’s tense “last supper” in final reel is the first episode to push good atmospherics all the way to a palpable sense of danger.

Perfs are solid, with the naturally rather hirsute Liefers an appealing underdog hero. Largely nocturnal color lensing and other tech contribs are well-turned; TV vet Fratzscher demonstrates ample bigscreen confidence on a medium budget, though one can’t help but suspect “Night Time” delivered something more engrossing and less rushed at an earlier edit or script stage.

Night Time

(GERMAN)

Production: An Avista Film production in association with Roxy Film, Luggi Waldleitner and ProSieben. Produced by Herbert, Alena Rimbach. Directed by Peter Fratzscher. Screenplay, Nils-Morten Osburg.

Crew: Camera (color), Thomas Merker; editor, Barbara Gies; production designer, Josef Sanktjohanser; costume designer, Anke Winckler; sound (Dolby), Ecki Kuchenbecker. Reviewed at Cinequest San Jose Film Festival, March 4, 2000. Running time: 96 MIN.

With: Thomas ..... Jan Josef Liefers Eschenbach ..... Ulrich Muhe Alexandra ..... Marie Baumer Becker ..... Christoph Waltz Graf ..... Peter Lohmeyer Lasinger ..... Burkhard Driest Voss ..... Andreas Hoppe Grandmother ..... Tilly Lauenstein Bernbeck ..... Michael Gwisdek

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