Review: ‘They Night They Came Home,’ starring Brian Austin Green, Tim Abell and Danny Trejo

February 2, 2024

by Carla Hay

Peter Sherayko, Sam Bearpaw and Tim Abell in “The Night They Came Home” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“The Night They Came Home”

Directed by Paul G. Volk

Culture Representation: Taking place in 1895 and 1896, in Arkansas and in Oklahoma, the Western action film “The Night They Came Home” (based very loosely on true events) features a racially diverse cast of characters (white, African American and Native American) representing the working-class, middle-class and the criminal underground.

Culture Clash: A marshal and his deputy go on the hunt for the Rufus Buck Gang, a group of ruthless biracial criminals who are committing racist hate crimes against white people.

Culture Audience: “The Night They Came Home” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s headliners and Western movies, but this movie is more nonsensical than historically accurate.

Charlie N. Townsend in “The Night They Came Home” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“The Night They Came Home” is an endurance test to see how long viewers are willing to watch an excruciatingly bad movie. Everything about this shoddily made Western reeks of amateurish filmmaking. It’s also a terrible depiction of a half-Black/half-Native American gang on a racist rampage against white people, with horribly acted scenes pretending to be historically true.

Directed by Paul G. Volk and written by John A. Russo (with additional writing by James O’Brien), “The Night Came Home” is very loosely based on true events of the real-life Rufus Buck Gang. This group of biracial marauders went on a killing spree specifically targeting white people out of “revenge” for the racism they and their ancestors experienced by other white people. The gang members are angry about enslavement of black people and the near-genocide of Native Americans, so these thugs are taking out their anger on anyone who is white.

“The Night They Came Home” is not supposed to be a “revenge fantasy,” such as filmmaker Quentin Tarantino’s 2012 fictional movie “Django Unchained,” which is about an enslaved man who gets revenge on his captors. “The Night They Came Home” is supposed to be based on real history and is just a pathetic excuse to make a “reverse racism” Western. All the acting, dialogue and technical aspects of the movie look as phony as a $3 bill. Very few people in the film look convincing as being from the 1890s.

“The Night They Came Home” begins on July 1, 1896, by showing gang leader Rufus Buck (played by Charlie N. Townsend) in Fort Smith Jail in Arkansas. Rufus is awaiting his execution. For viewers who don’t know the story of the Rufus Buck Gang, there goes any suspense about what’s going to happen to the gang leader, since the movie reveals right from the start that he was captured and executed.

Rufus, who seems to have some mental health problems, looks unusually cheerful for someone who knows he’s about to die. As the sun shines into his jail cell, Rufus smiles and says out loud, “Hello, sun. My last time getting to see your rise.” He also mentions that he’s separated from his “brothers, though I know we shall reunite when we leave this earth.”

A flashback then shows a younger Rufus being physically hit by a white priest, who snarls: “We will kill the Indian in you, Rufus Buck, to save the man.” The “man” is supposed to refer to the white race, but somehow in this 1890s lingo, these character in the movie are talking about “the man” as if they’re stuck in a 1960s counterculture movie.

It gets worse. “The Night They Came Home” has an added narrative layer of a gravedigger named Digger (played by Danny Trejo), who’s sitting in a bar when he meets a stranger with no name (played by Martin Kove) to tell the story of the Rufus Buck Gang and the law enforcement people who went on the hunt for the gang. Digger says that the end of the Wild, Wild West was on July 1, 1896, when the “last outlaw gang was hanged.”

The stranger has a nameless “lady of the night” (played by Carson Lee Bradshaw) by his side as his companion. She’s basically a prop who doesn’t say much of anything. The stranger and his companion sit down at Digger’s table to listen to Digger’s tale. Most of the movie then flashes back to 1895, the year of the Rufus Buck Gang’s biggest reign of terror.

In addition to Rufus, the other gang members are Sam Sampson (played by Hugh McCrae Jr.), Mamoa July (played by Ivan Villanueva) and brothers Lucky Davis (played by Phillip Andre Botello) and Lewis Davis (played by Nicholas Rising), who all have indistinctive personalities. Someone who later joins the gang is Rufus’ cousin Charles “Charlie” Buck (played by Chase Stephens), who is portrayed as someone who was recruited by Rufus and gets corrupted by these criminals. During the gang’s crime spree, Rufus impersonates a sheriff to gain the trust of his victims, who are usually viciously tortured and killed.

The Palmer family in Choctaw Nation, about 20 miles outside of Fort Smith, will be among those who have the misfortune of encountering the Rufus Buck Gang. The ranch-dwelling Palmer family consists of married parents Chuck Palmer (played by Brian Austin Green) and his wife, whose name and actress are not listed in the movie’s credits; their teenage children Tommy Palmer (played by Kassius Marcil-Green) and Jolene Palmer (played by Kelsey Reinhardt); and Chuck’s parents Jake Palmer (played by Bobby Reed) and another unnamed and uncredited female character.

There’s a home invasion of the Palmer family’s ranch that leaves one person dead in the house and another person kidnapped. The gang also goes after two other members of the family in a separate place outdoors, and only one of the two will make it out alive. Let’s just say that even though Green gets top billing in “The Night They Came Home,” he’s in the movie for no more than 15 minutes.

The law enforcement officials who go after the gang are marshal Heck Thomas (played by Tim Abell) and his deputy marshal George Maledon (played by Peter Sherayko), who are both from Fort Smith. Heck and George barely do any interviews in their investigation. Their main informant is Peter Nocono (played by Jayd Swendseid), who conveniently gives them the crucial information they need to know which way the gang is headed. They also enlist the help of locals such as Sam Sixkiller (played by Sam Bearpaw) and Paden Tolbert (played by Tommy Wolfe).

One of the most cringeworthy scenes in the movie shows what deputy marshal George says to a surviving Palmer family member who has found out that most of the other family members have been murdered: “We all die. It was their turn. Relax.” And he’s supposed to be one of the good guys?

There are also some random-looking cameos. Weston Cage (Nicolas Cage’s eldest child, also known as Weston Cage Coppola) plays a silent bartender named Bob in the bar where Digger tells his story. The bartender looks more like he’s in a heavy metal band from the 1980s, not a bartender from the 1890s. Robert Carradine has a very brief appearance as a bootlegger named Bart, whose fate is exactly what you think it will be.

“The Night They Came Home” is a complete failure of trying to show anything except senseless killings, chase scenes, and occasional interruptions to remind people that Trejo (doing his usual “gruff and rough character” schtick) is in this movie as the “storyteller.” Townsend portrays the sadist Buck as someone who’s constantly smirking, but it comes across as more clownish than villainous. At least he puts effort into his character having something memorable about his character. Everyone else’s performances in the movie are just dull or sometimes painful to watch. For a movie that’s about murder and mayhem in the Wild West, “The Night They Came Home” is actually limp and listless, and the only real assaults are on viewers’ intelligence, patience and time.

Lionsgate released “The Night They Came Home” in select U.S. cinemas, digital and VOD on January 12, 2024. The movie will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 27, 2024.

Review: ‘Get Gone,’ starring Lin Shaye, Weston Cage Coppola, Robert Miano and Bradley Stryker

January 20, 2020

by Carla Hay

Bailey Coppola and Lin Shaye in “Get Gone” (Photo courtesy of Cleopatra Entertainment)

“Get Gone”

Directed by Michael Thomas Daniel

Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional rural town of Whiskey Flats, Oregon, “Get Gone” has a cast of American characters who are predominantly white, with a few characters who are African American and Asian.

Culture Clash: A low-budget slasher flick, “Get Gone” shows the conflicts that arise between a sinister backwoods family and anyone who dares to go to the remote area where the family lives.

Culture Audience: Even the most avid horror fans will have a hard time sitting through this poorly made film that isn’t very scary.

Robert Miano in “Get Gone” (Photo courtesy of Cleopatra Entertainment)

Ripping off more than a few ideas from the 1980 “Friday the 13th” film (the first film in the “Friday the 13th” series), the horror flick “Get Gone” is a chore and a bore to watch. And it has nothing to do with the movie’s obviously low budget, because there are plenty of low-budget films that have better-than-average direction and writing. (For example, Oren Peli’s first “Paranormal Activity” movie, which is still the best in the “Paranormal Activity” horror series, was reportedly made for only $15,000.) “Get Gone,” written and directed by Michael Thomas Daniel, looks like a student film that would barely get a passing grade at any top-notch film school. As bad as the movie is, it would be somewhat redeemable if the film could be in the “so bad it’s funny” category, but “Get Gone” has almost no sense of humor. Some of the acting is more painful to watch than the movie’s unrealistic murder scenes.

The “Get Gone” plot is pretty simple: An elderly couple—Don Maxwell (played by Robert Miano) and Mama Maxwell (played by Lin Shaye)—live with their two adult sons in a secluded house in the backwoods of the fictional small town of Whiskey Flats, Oregon. And they’re mad as hell. The Maxwell parents have been living on the property for more than 30 years. But now, fracking companies have been drilling in the area, and the owner of the property wants the Maxwells to move.

The state of Oregon has also been battling with the Maxwells for years to leave the property, which is a state game refuge that prohibits hunting. The state claims that the Maxwells have been living on the property illegally, but the Maxwells obviously don’t agree. In the film’s opening scene, a fracking company official named Rico (played by Rico Anderson) has the unpleasant task of telling Don and Mama Maxwell that they’ve run out of time to stay on the property, and that it won’t be long before some men will come over to evict the Maxwells for good.

Meanwhile, there’s a viral video that has started an urban legend that visitors to the property have been disappearing and have probably been killed. (You know where this is headed.) It isn’t long before Hoax Busters, a group whose specialty is debunking urban legends, have traveled from out of town and gathered in the area’s local saloon. The five Hoax Busters people at the saloon are a boss in his 40s named Grant (played by Bradley Stryker) and four of his underlings who are in their 20s: nervous Abbey (played by Emily Shenaut), sassy Connie (played by Caitlin Stryker), wisecracking Kyle (played by Cory Crouser) and arrogant Scott (played by Luke B. Carlson).

They’re all are going to the woods for a “team-building trip” for a few days, but they’re really there to prove that the urban legend about the area is a hoax. They tell one of the saloon patrons that they’re going to the game refuge, and the local guy tells them that the people in the area don’t like tourists. Two of the young people from the Hoax Busters tourist party—Rene (played by Brittany Benita) and Tommy (played by Tristan David Luciotti)—are already hiking in the wooded area, when they’re startled to see a bearded man in his 20s, who gives them a menacing stare and growls at them: “Get gone.”

Back at the saloon, the group has a tour guide named Craig Eubanks (played by Adam Bitterman), who shows up to take them on the tour. Craig is a weird mix of goofy and cocky. His smarmy aura indicates that he’s willing to break the law for the right price. Rico shows up at the saloon and warns Craig and the tour group not to go on the private property where the Maxwells live. (But of course, we all know that warning won’t be heeded.)

Rico then tells them about the Maxwell family history and why the Maxwells are so bitter: The fracking poisoned the water, causing the Maxwell kids to have an unnaturally white pigment to their skin when they were born—and who knows how the poisoned water could’ve affected them mentally. It’s one of many plot holes in the movie’s script, which doesn’t explain why only the Maxwells were affected by the drinking water and not the other people in the area who presumably drank the same water.

Before the tour group heads up to the area, their colleagues Rene and Tommy in the woods have the misfortune of witnessing the Maxwell sons—older brother Patton (played by Weston Cage Coppola), who was the bearded man seen earlier, and his mute, mask-wearing brother Apple (played by Bailey Coppola)—react violently when two of the fracking company workers confront the brothers. Let’s just say that a scythe and a rope are used as murder weapons, and the Maxwell sons are not the ones who end up dead.

In fact, much like “Friday the 13th” villain Jason Voorhees (another mute, mask-wearing serial killer who came from a secluded, wooded area), Apple is able to survive wounds that would kill a person in real life. It should come as no surprise that this death-defying ability will become apparent in the obligatory scene where someone we’re supposed to think has been killed isn’t really dead after all. It’s become such a cliché in slasher flicks, that entire film franchises have been built on these type of fake death scenes.

“Get Gone” is such an amateur film that when the scythe is used to hack someone to death, there isn’t even any blood spatter. And the Maxwell brothers’ skin pallor is described in the movie as being like an albino. But the makeup for the film is appallingly sloppy, because it just looks like white powder haphazardly coated on the skin instead of a convincing-looking skin condition. Furthermore, the acting is incredibly stilted and awkward in scenes that are supposed to be suspenseful. There are tacky homemade videos on YouTube that are scarier than “Get Gone.”

Since movies like this are supposed to have a dead body count, it isn’t long before the rest of the people in the Hoax Busters tour group arrive by van in the wooded area, where they plan to camp out for a few days. Craig, their obnoxious guide, orders them to hand over their phones, which he gives to the van driver, who drives off with the phones. (Of course he does, because why would people in a horror movie who are going to a remote area for the first time with a creepy guy they’ve never met before need their phones in case of an emergency?) As one of the guys in the group says, they want to see if the “mythic albinos” really exist.

Sadly, the amateur filmmaking of “Get Gone” leaves one to wonder: What is scream queen Shaye (who’s best known for the “Insidious” films series) doing in this embarrassing mess? She’s done many horror B-movies before, but nothing that sinks to this level of awful. She didn’t do this movie for the money, because “Get Gone” obviously had an incredibly low budget. Maybe she owed someone a favor. Her agent certainly wasn’t doing her any favors by letting her sign on to this terrible project, which luckily for her won’t be seen by very many people.

How bad are the lines that Shaye has to utter in this movie? Here’s an example of what her Mama Maxwell character says when she rants to a visitor about the persecution she says her family has endured: “There are a lot of mean people. I mean mean! You know what I mean when I say ‘mean’?”

And yes, the Coppola actors in this movie are from that Coppola family: Weston Cage Coppola is the elder son of Oscar-winning actor Nicolas Cage. Bailey Coppola is the son of Christopher Coppola, who is one of Nicolas Cage’s siblings. And they’re all related to Oscar-winning filmmakers Francis Ford Coppola and Sofia Coppola. Maybe “Get Gone” is Weston and Bailey’s way of proving to the world that they’re really not using the family name to get into quality movies.

Horror is not a movie genre that typically gets Oscars and other prestigious awards. People already know that it’s not a genre that appeals to film snobs. But even horror fans expect a certain level of competent acting, directing and storytelling that “Get Gone” doesn’t deliver. In this day and age where independent filmmakers have more access to affordable equipment now than in previous decades, and people have more entertainment choices than ever before, there’s really no good excuse to take the lazy way out and make a garbage movie that’s a waste of people’s time.

Cleopatra Entertainment will release “Get Gone” in select U.S. cinemas on January 24, 2020, and on VOD on January 28, 2020.

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