Into the Night
January 4, 2008 5:59 PM   Subscribe

Into the Night Films through the ages. "What’s an into-the-night movie? It’s essentially about one anxious character (or group of characters) embarking on an illicit adventure and emerging transformed. Most often, the stories take place at night, but not always. Sometimes they happen over a whole summer, in the blazing light of day. Sometimes they’re comedies, and sometimes mysteries. But what they have in common is an acknowledgment that somewhere, lurking in the shadows of polite society, there are people getting ridiculously freaky." With much...

From the Article and off the top of my head...

The 80's: Something Wild, Into the Night, Risky Business, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, After Hours, Summer Lovers, A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, Body Double, Body Heat, Blue Velvet, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Lost in America, Midnight Run, Repo Man, Down By Law, The Last American Virgin, Running on Empty, Adventures in Babysitting

The 90's: Barton Fink, Playing God, The Big Lebowski

The 00's: Harold and Kumar go to White Castle, Training Day, Almost Famous, Hostel, Moulin Rouge! Collateral, Touristas, The Girl Next Door, Superbad

Did this venerable meta-genre all but disappear in the 90's? If so, why? If not, what am I missing? Does it simply speak to a charged thrill/fear of the unknown in times of pressure to abide by societal norms?
posted by Navelgazer (43 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

I'm so glad "After Hours" was included. I love that movie.
posted by davebush at 6:07 PM on January 4, 2008

Nice, Fat Buddha. I forgot about that one. For all newcomers, yes, it's a single-link post to a (relatively) old A.V. Club article, but the film and genre geek in me found it fascinating, and was interested in a better discussion than is usually found on the comment boards there. All apologies and etc, etc to anyone who's already read it.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:10 PM on January 4, 2008

Umm... What about "Go", one of the best movies of ALL time. (became a member just to say that, but have been thinking about joining for some time.)

Rok on.
posted by rokstar at 6:12 PM on January 4, 2008


(Make your own Into the Night film . . . friend. Whatever.)
posted by yhbc at 6:13 PM on January 4, 2008

Straight to video, but at least entertaining - Overnight Delivery from 1998
posted by pupdog at 6:21 PM on January 4, 2008

Did this venerable meta-genre all but disappear in the 90's? If so, why? If not, what am I missing? Does it simply speak to a charged thrill/fear of the unknown in times of pressure to abide by societal norms?
Well, the posters above me have noted a couple of nineties examples, but they certainly don't seem to have captured the public imagination the way all those eighties flicks have.

A better question might be, what were the most popular nineties teen movies about, if they weren't "Into the Night" movies? (I know that not all the ITN movies were about/intended for teens, but bear with me.) Clueless and its ilk come to mind.
posted by HeroZero at 6:37 PM on January 4, 2008

One of my classmates in high school did his senior project on Joseph Campbell's Hero Cycle as demonstrated in Blue Velvet. If you like this link and want to see more, I recommend starting out with Bill Moyer's Power of Myth, which is essentially a long interview with Campbell on the subject.
posted by cali at 6:39 PM on January 4, 2008

Down by Law was mentioned, but not Dead Man?

Both great Jarmusch films, but for completely different reasons, though both movies involve being on the lam.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:47 PM on January 4, 2008

HeroZero writes "A better question might be, what were the most popular nineties teen movies about, if they weren't 'Into the Night' movies? (I know that not all the ITN movies were about/intended for teens, but bear with me.) Clueless and its ilk come to mind."

Fast Times at Ridgemont High wasn't an ITN movie, but it is arguably the definitive '80s teen movie (along with Better Off Dead). Mostly they were about pulling one over on authority figures and frat boy/jock /preppie types. Oh, and getting laid. And drinking. And getting high. Sometimes fast cars are involved, or the occasional holdover '70s van full of stoners.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:50 PM on January 4, 2008

HeroZero, I was thinking about that as well. Looking at the nineties teen flicks (and I was a teen in the nineties, so hopefully I know them fairly well) they seemed to be more about "Is what I think is cool really cool?" Clueless updated Emma to make the heroine realize that all of her popular girl scheming didn't mean that she understood people at all. Can't Hardly Wait had the popular girl coming to understand that she was in love with the geeky guy. Empire Records followed petty rebels at a record store coming out from behind their personae-shields. American Pie took a bunch of high-school virgins dying to get laid and made (at least some of) them get that there's more to life than that. And Wayne's World... well, I don't know how to define Wayne's World.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:59 PM on January 4, 2008

Also, I thought about Tarantino, but none of his movies really fit the (arbitrary A.V. Club) pattern.

I also debated putting Thelma & Louise in, except that it doesn't really involve them learning about a new world, so much as just being on the run with each other. I guess there's the bit with Brad Pitt, but I just didn't think it all fit in the end.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:01 PM on January 4, 2008

Something Wild, Into the Night, and After Hours do indeed form a glorious trinity that I'm happy to see commemorated in the present day. But Superbad, though I liked it, isn't the same kind of movie. You need the protagonist to spend the night in a place which is not just different from their usual experience, but which they didn't even know existed before the night began, and which they're not sure they can get back from.
posted by escabeche at 7:28 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:38 PM on January 4, 2008

Some of the movies mentioned (and I love most of them) do form something like a subgenre but I think the article is somewhat sloppy with the definition. If an "Into the Night" movie doesn't have to happen at night, then how is it different from what we used to call "Coming of Age?" (As Cali noted, both are a subgenre of the hero's tale, which also happens to be encoded in the Major Arcana of the tarot deck.) If we count any story in which a person who's in a rut gets into trouble, adapts, and returns, then we covered most stories out there one way or another: you don't even have to reach for Star Wars, Pan's Labyrinth, or Lord of the Rings -- you can also apply this to The Devil Wears Prada, Children of Men, Michael Clayton, Juno, and just about any other narrative feature.

I'm more interested in a narrow definition that really features a night: After Hours, Blue Velvet, and so forth. Superbad certainly counts, but I'm sure there must be other recent examples. You can make a case that INLAND EMPIRE is set during a single night, but that's Lynch again. I'll have to think of a few more... I'm pretty sure the genre isn't anywhere near dead.
posted by muckster at 7:47 PM on January 4, 2008

One of my classmates in high school did his senior project on Joseph Campbell's Hero Cycle as demonstrated in Blue Velvet.

Yep, Campbell's mythological hero's journey pattern was the first thing I thought of too, here. Nothing all that new, really, and just a narrowing of an established archetypal tale: the hero's journey and return has been one of the standard stories that humans have been telling since we've been able to tell stories.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:54 PM on January 4, 2008

Yes, stavros, the "night" part being the underworld, the place were all rules are suspended etc. The corresponding tarot card is The Moon. In Star Wars, it's the Death Star, in Fellowship of the Ring, it's Moria, in Children of Men it's the fugee camp. I suppose a better working definition of the "into the night" film would say something about increased focus on that underworld part of it, through one night or not.

Marcy tells me that the forthcoming 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days is a great recent example.
posted by muckster at 8:02 PM on January 4, 2008

Well, I'm not certain about the A.V. Club definition either, but my own working definition is this:

A (usually) passive protagonist is drawn against their will into a world well outside of their experience, where the action in that world not only shock the protagonist, but would sock conventional society as well. Trouble within that new world forces the protagonist to learn to act within the corrupt and dangerous "rules" of that world in order to repay their debts and return to the world they know. When they return, they have better wisdom to face the previous drudgery of their own world than they did before.

While this alone can fit most of Campbell, Field, or McKee, I think these are most defined by the protagonist having very limited control over their circumstances, supporting characters constantly pushing the bounds of what the main protagonist thinks is acceptable/is comfortable with, and the protagonist growing more and more to love or lust after the new world they've been introduced to.

Actually, Who Framed Roger Rabbit might fit the bill.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:05 PM on January 4, 2008

I was shopping for a TV and saw a preview for Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay - it looks hilarious and didn't realise I was laughing outloud until a salesperson came over and asked to help me.
posted by jeffmik at 8:18 PM on January 4, 2008

You forgot "The Stoned Age". From imdb: "Joe and Hubbs are a pair of rockers who are on a quest for 'chicks'. This is the tale of their adventures over one night." [emphasis mine]

m i doin it rite?
posted by Eideteker at 8:51 PM on January 4, 2008

NavelGazer: "Actually, Who Framed Roger Rabbit might fit the bill."

I can't hang with ya on that one. Who Framed Roger Rabbit is essentially a well-heeled murder mystery plot, but spruced up with the inclusion of comic book characters. Added to it sideways is a sorta weird "coming of middle age" kinda subplot character exploration thing, which is really kinda freaky when you think about it. I wouldn't say it's an "Into the Night" kinda film.

I love Into The Night. Haven't thought about that movie in awhile, but it's got everything. David Bowie being weird. Jeff Goldblum being funny. Michele Pfeiffer being stunning. John Landis is at the top of his game. I'm not sure why this movie would be picked as the name of the entire subgenre, but it couldn't have happened to a nicer film.

Surprised I don't have that listed in my Top Ten of favorite films ever. It's definitely in the top fifty.. Come to think of it, what the hell. I just put it in my Top Ten. Those are in alphabetical order by the way. The top three are actually Citizen Kane, Princess Bride, and Star Wars. Although Serenity is inching Star Wars out of third place. The rest of them keep bouncing around. I'd say Into the Night is now in the ten spot. squeaking out Ghostbusters but just barely. My personal top ten list of best movies is a constantly evolving creature.

"See you next Wednesday."
posted by ZachsMind at 9:54 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hells yeah!'d you miss Go?

What about these?
Doom Generation (1995)
Kalifornia (1993)
SLC Punk! (1998)
posted by cowbellemoo at 11:02 PM on January 4, 2008

I actually saw Go in the theater, three times, on three consecutive nights. I'm ashamed that I didn't think of it for this list. The on;y excuse I have is that the shit that the characters get into is all a part of the workd they already inhabit, but I'm spitting hairs there.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:07 PM on January 4, 2008

...what they have in common is an acknowledgment that somewhere, lurking in the shadows of polite society, there are people getting ridiculously freaky.

This was novel and perhaps even subversive in the 1980s, when Spielberg was the ideal.

In the 1990s, I suspect a lot of people liked to imagine the ridiculously freaky were behind the camera. "The night is boring, man" seems to be at least one message of most 90's films that take place mostly at night (SFW, that other one about kids hanging out at the convenience store, etc. and so on).
posted by stinkycheese at 12:12 AM on January 5, 2008

The River's Edge.
Drugstore Cowboy.
My Own Private Idaho.
posted by Devils Slide at 1:58 AM on January 5, 2008

Correction: I mean River's Edge (1986), not to be confused with The River's Edge (1957).
posted by Devils Slide at 2:13 AM on January 5, 2008

Um... Goonies anybody?
posted by djfiander at 4:59 AM on January 5, 2008

The film judgement night certainly fits the definition. It's even got 'night' in the title. Why didn't anyone mention that?? I also thought of Bill Murray's little gem quick change since that involves going on the lam and a range of freaky characters.

I think it is important to stipulate that the purest examples of these films occur during a single night, just as tragedies were traditionally supposed to occur in a single day. There's a sense in these films that with the coming of the dawn, everything will be ok again. But that can't be it all, because I'm not sure you'd want to include films like gremlins or from dusk till dawn. Maybe vamp would count. As was noted above, it's more like a journey through the underworld. You can then have varieties according to whether the journey starts intentionally or not, what sort of 'quest' it is etc.
posted by leibniz at 5:17 AM on January 5, 2008

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)?

Yeah, I thought of it too. And After Hours is, indeed, great.
posted by ersatz at 5:48 AM on January 5, 2008

Go, while a great film, has more in common with Pulp Fiction or Run Lola Run than any of the other films on the abovementioned list.

I argue against this 'Into The Night' list being a 'genre' per se. Going back to Who Framed Roger Rabbit for a second, that was a stylized crime drama, with strong comical overtones. I'd hesitate to set it in the film noir genre, but it is obviously strongly influenced by that style. The problem is, there's a difference between genre and style. A genre is a category of film. Style is a lot of things, like a director's flair, or an unique approach to cinematography, or a variant to set design, or a combination of factors.

I'm not sure what this "Into The Night" list of films is, but it's not a genre. It's not even a sub-genre. Into The Night was an action thriller adventure comedy - that's four different genres. One could even argue it is a parody of actual thrillers like North By Northwest, Touch Of Evil, or Body Heat.

Ferris Bueller's Day off is a great adventure comedy, but it's not a parody of thrillers. Harold and Kumar belong on the same list, but not alongside Into The Night. Likewise, Donnie Darko, Blue Velvet, and Repo Man belong on the same list together, but not with Into The Night.

The fundamental similarity I see among these films is that you have two major characters (occasionally with one or two supporting foils along for the ride), usually from very diverse backgrounds, who are through a series of coincidences and fated circumstances thrown together and forced to take a journey of some sort. Sometimes both are working together for the same goal, but sometimes it's a tenuous relationship and the audience is led to believe when they get to their destination there will be some kind of showdown, or a conflict where partner A wants X to happen and partner B wants Y to happen. Somehow by the end of the story they reach a solution that allows them both to achieve their goals without adversely affecting the other, or one of the partners learns that the other one was ultimately 'more right'.

It can easily be argued that this plotline can be superimposed on most movies, where there are two primary players. 48 Hours for example could fit, but it doesn't belong on this list. Pinocchio could fit this plot description, but it doesn't belong on the list.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:48 AM on January 5, 2008

Well, I'll throw another idea into the mix that I think does define a more tight genre of the 1980s and early '90s: the suburban anxiety/escape fantasy. A theme that unites Adventures in Baby Sitting, Ferris Bueller, Desperately Seeking Susan, and the The Night Before is that the suburbs are too safe and clean for character development, and it is only by confronting the messy complexities and frustrations of city life that gives the protagonists a backbone to confront the problems in their own family life.

(I'll add up front that I don't think Ferris or Susan are the protagoinists of the movies that bear their names. They just serve as the goad to get Cameron and Roberta out of their comfort zones.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:23 AM on January 5, 2008

Howsabout the grandaddy of them all: The Cat in the Hat?
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:55 AM on January 5, 2008

Dazed and Confused, The Sure Thing, American Beauty
posted by any major dude at 10:43 AM on January 5, 2008

American Graffiti and Easy Rider would qualify too.
posted by Devils Slide at 12:20 PM on January 5, 2008

I was just about to say Desperately Seeking Susan. But I have to add that I find this whole article very reinventing the wheel-y. This kind of trope goes back a very, very long way-- see the Gothic fiction of the 18th century, for a start. If you want to look farther, check out Virgil, and the idea of Arcadia and the pastoral fantasy. Hell, go back to Gilgamesh: transformation through experience obtained outside the quotidian is really the human story, but one that all others reference. I suppose there's some interest here in how the "counter-culture" was being portrayed during the 1980s, but I'm not sure I see a huge thematic difference with the way 20th century mainstream culture has traditionally regarded bohemia, aside from the obvious one of bohemia providing a happy ending of sorts (at least in Desperately Seeking Susan, anyway).
posted by jokeefe at 1:01 PM on January 5, 2008

Just to add that I've only seen about three of the movies listed, however, you all know that Moulin Rouge is a straight rewriting of La Boheme, right?
posted by jokeefe at 1:03 PM on January 5, 2008

Let's see: They "have wild adventures that shake them out of their usual ... routine" ... they "see a side [of things] ... that they didn’t know existed before ... populated by violent [types] and weirdo[s]. And the next morning, they’ve discovered something about what they’re capable of, and what they really want." These films are "about one anxious character (or group of characters) embarking on an illicit adventure and emerging transformed," and "what they have in common is an acknowledgment that somewhere, lurking in the shadows ... there are people getting ridiculously freaky. All we have to do is ..." follow the yellow brick road.

Okay, okay, so it's a bit of a stretch ... but the post title does say "Into the Night Films through the ages." And sure, in the film adaptation, it's arguable how 'transformed' the heroine really is, given that ... [er, spoiler alert for those who've lived in a cave the last several decades] ... the key change when she wakens at the end is that she now loves tedious, sepia-toned old Kansas ... but maybe it at least qualifies as, um, a "proto-Into the Night" film?
posted by NetizenKen at 1:19 PM on January 5, 2008

Groundhog Day might qualify, now that I think about it.
posted by Billegible at 1:52 PM on January 5, 2008

posted by OverlappingElvis at 10:43 PM on January 5, 2008

Logan's Run?
posted by jackiemcghee at 8:02 AM on January 6, 2008

Time Bandits?

Minority Report?



Big Trouble In Little China?

It's A Wonderful Life?
posted by ZachsMind at 9:49 AM on January 6, 2008

Pssst, guys? It's kind of pointless listing movies, given that the whole idea here is that we're talking about one version of an archetypal human story that unpins with its metaphors a significant portion of all adventurey narratives you could care to name...
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:45 PM on January 6, 2008

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