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“Interior” and “night” are two of the most common words to appear in screenplays. They are parts of scene headings, giving the reader and production team an idea of what the script requires. Written and directed by Alan Watt, Interior Night has the energy and frustration of someone who’s read too many screenplays. It’s the sort of talkfest that was popular in the indie film boom from the mid-to-late ’90s. As a throwback to that period, it has just enough insight and humor to become a minor cult hit.
Riley Smith plays Eddie, a depressed painter who contemplates suicide in his Los Angeles apartment. He gets a visit from Conrad (Micah Hauptman), who is freaking out because his girlfriend Esther (Christina Scherer) wants serious commitment. There are added complications: Eddie fucked Esther—don’t worry, they’re still friends—and Conrad showed up while carrying a duffel bag filled with weed. As Eddie and Conrad work out their issues, Esther reaches out to Charlotte (Erinn Hayes). Charlotte is Eddie’s co-worker and former flame, and yet this does not dissuade Esther since she’s too distraught.
The majority of Interior Night is presented as dialogue-driven scenes, with Conrad and Eddie getting the lion’s share of screen time. Watt has a shrewd way of writing his characters into conflict and back out again: A turn of phrase or an aside sets off Conrad, for example, and their behavior grows more unhinged as they polish off a bottle of brown liquor.
Despite the claustrophobic setting, Watt’s camera placement and editing ensure that the film never feels stagey. The characters are intriguing—the sort of fuck-ups that test the limits of friendship—and the actors are convincing since they have little hope of redemption. Watt arrives at a happy ending, sort of, except the victories are all empty.
Interior Night falters when Watt abandons the logical conclusions of his premise. Eddie begins the film with a pistol, so of course the climax ends with a bizarre hostage situation where a pizza delivery man (Kirk Baltz) also considers suicide. It’s a surreal, implausible situation, the sort of climax that only exists when a writer finds himself in a corner. The film loses its grip, and yet the characters are screwed up and articulate enough that they’re fun to be around—for a while, anyway.
Screens Monday, Feb. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the Naval Heritage Center.