Review: Short ‘The Night They Hit Back’ is a Four Year Labor of Love
By: Nicholas J. Spacek
Given the sheer length of advance work on The Night They Hit Back, it seems like there’s a lot riding on director Jason Thorson’s short — along with his co-producer, Chris Haag, Thorson spent two and a half years in pre-production on The Night They Hit Back, shot it in four days in the summer of 2014, and only just released it. That’s nearly four and a half years of work on a half-hour film.
Happily, Thorson’s comedic horror short film works effectively in both the gangster and zombie genres. In the span of half an hour, the short gets in a good amount of effluvia and coolness with its simple premise of “Sonny — the hapless son of The Don — and his reluctant muscle, The Goon, embark on a mafia hit just as a zombie plague begins devouring the country.”
The short begins with an excellent nod to George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, setting up the backstory with a radio broadcast telling of the return of the recently-dead. It’s a clever little tribute and works pretty darn well. Now, the best part of the film is Greg Johnson as the Goon. Johnson’s absolutely perfect in his role, portraying a stoic man of few words, who seemingly exists only to smoke cigarettes and get things done.
The Night They Hit Back takes a little while to get going — Thorson’s rather fond of extended set-up shots which ostensibly set the mood — but once the hit’s gone down, and the zombie pops up (literally), things get fun. Matt Kenyon, as the Don’s son, Sonny, has a nice little story arc wherein he goes from a weak-stomached, ill-prepared heir apparent, to something rather more.
Thanks to Sonny’s stomach, there’s just as much barf as blood, and combined with some pretty effective zombie makeup, the film does a solid job of keeping things gross and icky. Matt Hadley’s score is also quite creepy in its simple synth way and keeps things edgy whenever The Night They Hit Back starts to flag — although that’s not often.
Here’s to hoping there’s not four and a half more years before Jason Thorson makes another film. There’s so much promise in The Night They Hit Back that it seems a shame to have to wait too long to get more from the director.
Keep the Fear Alive!