When a colleague forwarded me the trailer for Night’s End with the note “I think this is up your alley,” he couldn’t have been more right…. by the trailer at least. As someone who suffers from insomnia, a hybrid insomnia spiral and ghost story has a lot of appeal. The framing of the trailer poses the question “Is this happening or is our main character losing it,” echoing one of my favorite viewings to also come out in 2020: Come True. However, what Night’s End turned out to be still has me scratching my head and asking “What did I just watch?”

Night’s End follows Ken Barber (played by Geno Walker), who is a man living alone as a shut-in. Right off the bat, we see that his windows are newspapered over, his lights are kept very dim, and for some reason he has plastic sheeting in lieu of doorways. He spends his time with bird taxidermy, caring for a plethora of houseplants, and fulfilling a routine seemingly meant to stave off sleeplessness.  He also begins rapid-fire creating streaming videos on a variety of topics in the hopes of one of them making big so he can avoid getting a “real job.”

Immediately I was drawn to Ken, a weird and relatable character who is going through it all while struggling to get back to normal;  through mental health, getting a new job, and being a good father to the girls he has moved far away from. This character feels so genuine and familiar, even down to the little detail that he stretches the truth about how many viewers his videos are getting or insisting “my viewers pointed something out in my video,” when we know it was just his buddy. He’s the type of endearingly flawed, but painfully real character I love to see in horror.

The bulk of the action is centered on his attempts at creating a successful video channel, when weird things begin to happen in the background. There are a number of interesting characters in the film, but besides Ken, everyone is seen through video conferencing on Ken’s computer. Michael Shannon even makes an odd guest appearance as Ken’s ex-wife’s new husband. Felonious Munk steals the scene every time he makes an appearance as Ken’s buddy Terry. The dynamic between all the characters is genuinely enjoyable, and the investment in their interpersonal relationships is the strongest part of the entire film; we care about these people.

Visually Night’s End is stunning. Director Jennifer Reeder does an incredible job of suffusing every scene with lush colors; rich greens and dreamy reds blend with luscious yellow. Shots are framed to give us insight into Ken’s state of mind, and despite how dark the film is, Ken–being a man of color–is never lost in the darkness (something I see often with folks of color in film). The one downfall is that, as previously mentioned, the film is fairly dark and you might want to view it at night. The soundtrack is subtle but lovely, evoking synth sounds that are now becoming synonymous with horror films.

Geno Walker as Ken – Night’s End – Photo Credit: Abbi Chase/Shudder

I would say where this movie jumps the rails is at the end. So many interesting threads have been laid throughout the run time, but the culmination comes with Ken’s supernatural experiences being picked up by a streaming network that compiles and explores such phenomena. I don’t want to give anything away, but man does it take a turn–and a turn away from everything the movie spent the first hour setting up. So many details are left hanging in the air, and even the graphics go wonky, venturing into cheesy territory that negates the careful cinematography that proceeds the climax. 

Ultimately the film suffers from being pulled in too many directions story-wise. The first hour of Night’s End is a nuanced look at isolation, technology we use to bridge the distance, and the things that can prey on us when we are at our worst. The last ten minutes of the film present a twist that feels taken out of an entirely different movie, and the themes set up in the first part are entirely thrown out the window. Mostly the disappointment comes from the feeling that this film could have been something great, which is maybe the worse type of horror film disappointment: the near-miss.

However, I would say Night’s End is still a worthy watch, especially for a movie night where you and your horror buddies can enjoy together and discuss the bonkers ending. Jennifer Reeder is clearly a skilled director, and I will be watching anything she makes from here on. Also, it was a delight to see a number of relatively small-time actors bring to life interesting characters, such as Daniel Kyri and Theo Germaine who do a stellar job playing the hosts of a fictitious ghost-sighting streaming channel Dark Corners. I would seriously watch a movie just about Dark Corners (if you are reading this Jennifer!). 

 

Nights End is now available on Shudder US, CA, UKI and ANZ. You can get a 14 day extended trial when you sign up on their site using our promo code “GRIMOIRE2022

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