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February 28, 2022

TAKE BACK THE NIGHT (2021) Movie Review

As I’m beginning to organize my thoughts for this review, I’m sincerely hoping that whatever rolls out of my brain pan to my fingertips doesn’t piss anyone off. I mean if it does, that’s on you, not me. However, I don’t purposefully try to hurt others if I can help it.

The only reason I’m opening with this idea is because the film I’m going to review is an amalgamation of ideas that make a lot of people angry, uncomfortable, insecure, scared, or worst of all, dismissive. So this review may take a more serious tone, perhaps show the more somber side of my psyche. More than likely this will end up long and rambling, so please bear with me.

But always remember – these are just my opinions, my thought processes. I am only speaking FOR MYSELF. So don’t take anything I write as a personal attack against you, other men or women, feminism or feminists, victims of violent crimes, etc.

In other words, don’t be a big, bubble-blowing, narcissistic baby, okay?

Glad we’re cleared that up. On to the review.


Take Back the Night is a 2021 film about Jane Doe, a woman who is assaulted by a supernatural shadow creature. As she tries to move on with her life in the only way she knows how – posting about her experience on social media in the hopes others will share any info on the creature she’s encountered – Jane maneuvers the world of victim blaming and shaming. The less than helpful police detective, the ambush of an ‘investigative journalist’, and the strained relationship with her only sister do not help Jane mentally recover. Only by seeking out the truth and using her well-established sense of self-reliance is Jane finally able to move forward.


I can’t really get much more specific than that because I will reveal important story elements. And while this is not a perfect film, it’s well done and worth the watch, so I don’t want to ruin it for any future viewers.

What is great about this film is the acting. Jane, played by Emma Fitzpatrick, is completely sympathetic, even to those of us who’ve never been the victim of a sexual assault or violent crime. Aside from her instinct to go immediately to social media about everything, my heart was with her all the way. I felt the strain of her relationship with her sister, played by Angela Gulner (who starred in a little-known, awesome indie film called Son of Ghostman); the incredulity of the detective when she went from supportive to hostile; the humiliation of the journalistic ambush on live television. Jane brings the viewer along for the ride on every ugly destination.

The production is top notch. I felt like I was watching a Hollywood blockbuster. Sound, editing, photography; even the CGI used for the shadow creature was completely believable. It helps to have a cadre of great actors, well-developed characters, and a good script. I appreciated the unsanitized elements of what happens after an assault, like the hospital procedures and police questioning. Most of those things are glossed over in tv and movies.

From what I understand, the attack by the shadow creature is supposed to be a metaphor for rape. But let’s be honest here, it’s not that deep of a metaphor. A woman, alone in an alley, is attacked by a stranger. When she ends up in the hospital, she’s covered in bruises, scratches, bite marks, and her lower stomach – you know, right over her womb – has been nearly clawed open. It doesn’t take a huge leap of the intellect to know what’s going on. She’s been raped without saying she’s been raped.

But I understand why they did it this way. Or at least, I think I do. Talking about sexual assault, or any violent crime, makes people uncomfortable. Let’s face it – women have been oppressed, repressed, shamed, blamed, humiliated, victimized, and every other descriptor you can think of for inhumane treatment, for centuries across every culture and society on the planet. I’m sure most women, however, don’t think it will happen to them and most men believe they would never commit such acts. So people just kinda push it to the back burner and don’t talk about it. But…put this in the guise of a horror movie with a supernatural shadow monster and it loosens the lips, so to speak.

I also started looking at the shadow creature as a metaphor, not just for a person but mental illness and its impact on the human condition. It could also be seen as society and how it has treated women until they are worn down into submission, suicide, doubt, weakness, etc. So for me, the supernatural element of the attack is a weaker metaphor than the shadow creature itself.

By the time I got to the end of the movie, I was feeling all kinds of ways. I had questions; I was angry. But you know what I never felt, though? Female empowerment. I have a feeling the film makers wanted that to come across but it either went over my head or focused too much on how everyone was a total fucking asshole, doubting Jane’s story and making her doubt her own experience.

This is what happens in real life, right? Of course it is. Even though Jane survives, perhaps the bleakness of her continued existence is the point, though she’s doing all she can to help herself and others from becoming victims, too. While showing that social media can have positive impacts (Jane can find other women out there to help; she gets useful info on the shadow creature and how to defeat it, etc.), I walked away with the feeling of helplessness; that nothing anyone does or says can change this fucked up way of how women are treated.

I think a big part of that feeling comes from the fact that there are no male characters in this movie. Well, technically there are two: one we only see his back right before Jane has bathroom sex with him and then he’s gone into the ether, and the other is the voice over of the cop conducting Jane’s polygraph test. Removing men from the equation, dismissing they’re conscious or unconscious role in how women are seen and treated in society, is a disservice to their sex and does NOTHING to help women. Absolutely. Nothing. This is the most egregious flaw of this film.

A few years back I watched a YouTube video (sorry, I can’t remember names or channels or anything because my brain retains nothing useful) about a woman who goes to high schools and colleges to talk with young male athletes. She said instead of wagging an accusatory finger at them and screeching “you’re what’s wrong with the world and you should all just go away”, include them in the conversations about rape and violent assaults. If they become more aware of how their actions, or inactions, impact women, as well as develop their sense of empathy (how would you feel if that were your sister, your girlfriend, your mom), perhaps we can change these archaic ideas about women in society, and behave like the evolved species we think we are. I don’t remember if she said that last part – could just be me editorializing.

Overall, this is a well-done film. While I think it failed in some respects, it certainly opens the door for more discourse about societal norms and cultural ideals toward who women are supposed to be, how they should act, and what we can do together to make the world a better place for everyone.

2.75 hatchets (out of 5)



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