Touted on the DVD cover as a part of "The Lost Collection" -- "the best movies you totally forgot about" -- 1988's The Night Before is lost, in the same way that evil antiques from Hell's basement are lost after they've doomed their last soul and before they doom the next unlucky fool that finds them.
The flip side of the DVD case describes the film as "darkly comic" in the tradition of Scorsese's surreal romp After Hours. It stars Keanu Reeves as Winston, a high school nerd who wakes up after "a prom night from hell" with no memory of it until his "hilarious flashbacks" recap.
Hilarious? Hallucinogenic perhaps, maybe psychologically harmful, but definitely not hilarious. There's no comedy in this rabbit hole.
The nightmare commences with Winston in bed moaning. Next we hear the sinister echo of his mother's voice and shazam! Winston lands, dazed and confused, in his muddy, tattered white tux, in a seedy urban Dreamscape -- aka L.A.
With no idea where he is or how he arrived, the clueless nitwit must wade through his slummy subconscious until he recalls what happens. Or ... we're actually seeing him on prom night, but he's lost his memory and it's gradually returning. Who knows. Or cares. The screenplay/psychological warfare experiment can be credited to Honey, I Blew Up the Kid's Thom Eberhardt, who refuses to adhere to any temporal structure -- not even one of his own design. Either way, as far as it's possible to determine here's what happened, the night before ...
Homecoming princess Tara (90210's Lori Loughlin) loses a bet (also why she's in this film?) and must ask the Astronomy Club VP, Winston, to the prom. Alas a magnet mishap throws Winston's car compass off, and he drives to the wrong side of L.A. instead of the dance. (He's apparently not one of the smart nerds.) After his wallet is stolen, they attempt to get cash back/cab fare with Tara's credit card at a bar. (Winston would rather not call their parents, especially Tara's dad -- a cop with a loaded gun.) A bartender slips a roofie in Winston's ginger-ale-and-tequila, or maybe it was the ginger ale, and whilst in a psychedelic haze he sells Tara to Tito, a pimp. Tito then sells her to Cueball who sells her to Fat Jack. But it's all good because in the end Tara falls in love with Winston despite his mistaking her for his ho, and taking forever to find her rather than dial 911. (Thankfully the johns are too busy selling Tara to put her to work.)
So ... this all sounds so bad it must be good?
No. This is possibly one of the worst, or at least most morally and mentally disturbing, movies ever made. It's seriously possible its blatant disregard for its own schizoid timeline and abuse of senseless flashbacks have somehow torn the space-time continuum. Perhaps it's at the root of our current economic crisis. My brain still feels damaged, and I strongly suspect I've been exposed to subliminal brainwashing. Is there such thing as cinematic PTSD?
One positive note: Keanu's acting is surprisingly human. (You almost forget it's Reeves and believe it's just another bad actor.)
Trivia Tracks: Why not endure the entire film once more and read relevant trivia notes spaced at 20 minute intervals. Watch Winston drink a cup of coffee. Learn the cost of coffee in 1988. Priceless ...