Night’s End is the latest offering from up-and-coming horror director Jennifer Reeder (Knives and Skin), currently streaming on Shudder. The movie has promise, but it can’t decide if it is a serious story about a haunted apartment, a character study about mental illness and the effects of isolation, or a campy, end of the world, apocalyptic tale.
Night’s End begins as a character study about a man, Ken Barber (Geno Walker) living the life of a shut-in – his windows are covered with newspaper, his rooms are divided by the plastic sheeting of a building undergoing renovations, and all of his communication is via video chat. He seems to be suffering from anxiety disorder and is working on “forward progress” which looks like a cabinet filled with that pink drink (not the one from Starbucks) that he mixes with his morning coffee (ew!), tomato soup, an inversion table, and indoor gardening.
One of the movie’s mysteries is what exactly happened to Ken that he lives this lonely, regimented life. He video chats with his ex-wife Kelsey (Kate Arrington, wife to Michael Shannon – hilarious in his small role as Kelsey’s new husband, Isaac), who he seems to be on good terms with although he keeps promising to call his kids and never does, and with his friend Terry (Felonious Monk) who is helping him find his focus as Ken gets his YouTube Channel off the ground. He does seem to have a lot of glitches in his online activity – perhaps there’s just not enough bandwidth in his old apartment. When one of Ken’s taxidermied birds (I had no idea he was a taxidermist until this point) falls off the shelf behind him during a YouTube broadcast, the haunting begins.
Night’s End – ghost story or commentary on the effects of isolation?
The supernatural activity becomes inspiration to create one of those haunted YouTube channels that his video chat buddies enthusiastically encourage, being aficionados of paranormal YouTube compilations. Ken acquires a book about hauntings and decides to make a spirit jar and capture the restless ghost causing minor inconveniences in his apartment – but instead of following the directions in the book, he just kind of wings it (a very smart way to handle the spirit world) with a mish mash of symbols and no real idea of how any of it works. The consequences are the paranormal activity increases dramatically – which looks more like Ken coming completely unhinged than a ghost story.
Ken is contacted by the book’s author, Collin Albertson (Lawrence Grimm) – a caricature of an occultist that any sane person would take one look at and run in the other direction. But Ken is clearly NOT sane, and he takes this man’s advice, submitting the videos and his intention to exorcise his apartment under the direction of Collin to wildly successful paranormal YouTube host Dark Corners (Daniel Kyri who clearly got his character inspiration from a watered down Chris Tucker in The Fifth Element), who then hosts a live stream of the entire charade.
By Night’s End we are in an entirely different movie.
As you can imagine, this whole thing goes terribly awry. I don’t know why no one stopped the shenanigans before the apocalypse – but, alas, here were are again at the end of the world from a taxidermied bird falling off the shelf. This movie is clearly people who make their living in film trying to work during COVID quarantine. I am really not sure who decided that the last five minutes of the movie should be more The Gate than the Paranormal Activity we started with, but they should just stop and spare us from more of this kind of nonsense. The movie was good, and compelling, until it wasn’t. That’s not to say I wouldn’t have enjoyed an entire movie that logically led up to this ending, but that is not the movie I spent 90 minutes watching.
To be completely honest I tried watching Jennifer Reeder’s full-length directorial debut, Knives and Skin, and I couldn’t get through it. It was a very David Lynchian film, and I love David Lynch, but nothing about the film felt authentic, and it just fell flat for me. Night’s End, on the other hand, I found far more compelling even with its flaws and completely unhinged third act. Jennifer Reeder definitely has potential as a director, she can certainly create a mood, suspense, and elicit decent performances from her cast – hopefully she starts picking better projects.
Night’s End, a Shudder original, premiered on the horror streaming service on March 31st, 2022.
Did you see Night’s End? Is it Compelling or Campy? Let me know in the comments!!