Dead of Night was one of the first horror anthologies and is considered by many to be one of the best of the genre. I wouldn't go that far, but it was highly influential (the killer ventriloquist dummy has been used countless times since) and certainly has its moments. What's kind of odd about this flick is that there's more of an emphasis on the wraparound segments than on the stories themselves. The whole anthology format was still pretty new back in '46, so I guess they hadn't worked all the bugs out of the formula yet.
The first story, Hearse Driver (**) is about a race car driver who begins having visions of a phantom hearse after surviving a near fatal car crash. The set-up sounds promising but nothing is ever really done with it. It's also way too short and ended so abruptly that I didn't even realize the story was over. Next comes Christmas Story (**) and it's not about a BB gun. No, it's all about a young girl who plays hide-and-seek with a little boy who turns out to be a ghost at Christmas. Like most of the stories in the film, it's watchable, but it's much too quaint and slight to be considered "scary". The next story, The Haunted Mirror (** 1/2) concerns a woman who buys a possessed mirror for her husband that almost drives him to murder. This story kicks things up a notch by having a concise beginning, middle and end, yet it never really plays out the material's supernatural angle to it's fullest potential. Golfing Story (***), based on a short story by H.G. Wells is more of a light-hearted horror-comedy as two rival golfers play a game of golf for the affections of a woman. When one guy loses, he drowns himself in the water hazard. Later, we learn that the other guy cheated, so the other dude haunts him on the golf course by moving his ball around. Even though this story is really goofy and tries too hard to be funny, I still enjoyed it. If anything, it sets the table for The Ventriloquist's Dummy (***), which is by far the darkest and spookiest of the lot. Yeah, it's another one of those Dummy-Is-Controlling-The-Ventriloquist deals, and although it's pretty uneven, it's a lot of fun. The wraparound segments take up so much screen time that I feel like I should rate them too (** 1/2). The early scenes are pretty dull as it's mostly a bunch of stuffy Brits hanging around in a sitting room talking about their dreams. Luckily near the end, things go bat shit insane when all of the ghosts, villains, and creeps from the various stories attack our hero in a nightmarish sequence. Try not to get freaked out when Hugo, the dummy starts walking around all by himself.
Most anthology horror movies are spotty at best and Dead of Night is no exception. Two good stories out of five is about par for the course (golfing pun not intended) for this sort of thing. Then again, I'm a sucker for anthologies, so it was easy for me to look over the flick's more lackluster moments and enjoy the good stuff.
The ghost in the Golfing Story gets the best line in the flick when he says, "May the Lord have mercy on your handicap!"