In the Framing Story, a group of people meet in a country house and one man declares he has seen the meeting in a dream and that everyone was horribly murdered. Other guests recount their own supernatural experiences, including a premonition of disaster and a crazed ventriloquist dummy. Then the first man says he has a horrible feeling that the killer in his dream was himself, and begins to butcher them. He then wakes up from the nightmare, drives off, and arrives at the same country house. The film ends as it began, in a supposedly infinite loop.
There are segments, each from a different writer and director:
- "The Hearse Driver"
- "The Christmas Party"
- "The Haunted Mirror"
- "The Golfing Story"
- "The Ventriloquist's Dummy"
- plus the "Linking Narrative"
Not to be confused with the 2011 Dylan Dog movie.
Dead of Night provides examples of the following tropes:
- Anthology Film: The movie is actually an omnibus, or anthology of stories, tied together with a central narrative.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: The "The Haunted Mirror" segment.
- Demonic Dummy: Hugo...
- Dream Within a Dream / "Groundhog Day" Loop: The end is the beginning is the end.
- Dutch Angle: Used extensively during the nightmarish climax.
- Florence Nightingale Effect: Perhaps downplayed, but in "The Hearse Driver", the narrator's then-nurse is his current wife.
- Framing Device: Walter Craig's narrative.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Hugo/Maxwell Frere when he's performing. First, he tells the beautiful, unsuspecting French lady, "Didn't I see you working your...head off in the Folies Bergèrenote ?" And when Frere (as Maxwell) asks Hugo, "Oh, the lady's face is familiar, is it?", Hugo replies, "What would I be doing in the Folies Bergère looking at faces?"
- His parting words to the audience are, "Good night, sleep tight, wake up sober".
- Haunted House Historian: The antique dealer providing us with the back story of the haunted mirror.
- Its Pronounced Tropay: The ventriloquist Frere's surname is pronounced "Freya". We wouldn't have a clue how it's spelt if it weren't spelt out in Kee's statement.
- Magical Gesture: Didn't work out for the angel. But for the old man.
- Mirror Universe: In "The Haunted Mirror", an antique mirror reveals the room it was once in.
- Nested Story: The five subplots.
- Or Was It a Dream?: The whole story.
- Played for Laughs: "Golfing Story" is not at all scary.
- Psychic Dreams for Everyone: In "Hearse Driver", a young man is in hospital, and is reading a book late in the evening, then sees a stir at the curtains, and notices the clock has jumped from 9:45 to 4:15. He gets up to open them, and sees sun shining brightly. He looks out and sees a hearse driver say ""just room for one inside, Sir." He shuts the curtain, it is 9:50, as it should be. When he leaves he is about to catch a tram. The tram driver looks just like the hearse driver and says "just room for one inside, Sir." He shudders and runs off the tram, only to see it dive off its tracks with everyone on it going to their doom.
- Ripped from the Headlines: The "Christmas Party" ghost story is loosely based on a real life murder mystery. In 1860, Francis Saville Kent (aged nearly four years old) was murdered. His sixteen-year-old half-sister Constance later confessed to the crime.
- Round Robin: Six segments done by four directors.
- Split Personality: The ventriloquist/Hugo.
- Eventually results in Split-Personality Takeover, as the last time we see Maxwell, he is speaking in Hugo's voice (without moving his lips, of course).
- Those Two Guys: Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne, who play George and Larry in the "Golfing Story" sequence, appeared together in several other films of the '30s and '40s, including The Lady Vanishes and Night Train to Munich.
- Undead Child: There is one at "The Christmas Party". Or is there?
- Ventriloquism: In "The Ventriloquist's Dummy", Michael Redgrave plays an disturbed ventriloquist.