Night's End

Night's End Review

Another chilling lesson about leaving the undead alone.

Night's End debuts on Shudder on March 31.


While Night's End is a significant departure from director Jennifer Reeder's acclaimed 2019 neo-noir Knives and Skin, it's still a sound paranormal thriller. Knives and Skin oozes rebellious neon styles while Night's End plays by the book in terms of supernatural storytelling of housebound ghost tales — it becomes evident in a matter of minutes that Reeder's directing someone else's script. Writer Brett Neveu imagines haunted-house cinema in a more populated renter's environment by adhering to all the no-no rules of horror characters summoning evil. Reeder, meanwhile, is here to guide audiences through that vision step by step, which gets the job done. It's nothing revolutionary, but shows a steady hand from Reeder. And as someone who's ever-curious about how horror will continue to evolve with technology, Night's End scratches that itch of livestream nightmares and the stupidity of click-seekers.

Geno Walker stars as "anxious shut-in" Ken Barber, which is the film's workaround as a pandemic project with minimal cast interactions. Ken lost his family, lives alone, and only engages with companions Terry (​​Felonious Munk) and Kelsey (Kate Arrington) — and Kelsey's husband Isaac, played by Michael Shannon — via Zoom chats. Otherwise, Walker is by himself in most scenes as Isaac starts a YouTube channel and tries to become famous by engaging with uber-popular user Dark Corners (Daniel Kyri) and their haunting compilation videos. That's when Ken starts interacting with occult specialist Colin Albertson (Lawrence Grimm) and breaks every horror movie bylaw, from reading Latin passages aloud to using ritualistic objects with strange markings.

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Night's End is somewhat predictable as Ken investigates the gruesome history of his apartment, complete with a previous murderous tenant. What starts with an odd occurrence as an object falls off Ken's wall in the background of one of his vlogs becomes a haunted-house exploration in tighter corners. Ken researches the "Wellwoods" and tries to learn what spirits could be inhabiting his domain, as Kelsey and Terry urge him to get popular enough to score a crossover segment with Dark Corners. There's nothing unexpected here for horror fans, but Reeder's direction keeps the intricacies of Night's End moving forward at a fine clip.

In terms of horror, Ken is tormented from behind as he sits in front of his laptop. Ghostly interactions usually start when a figure appears in the hallway or doorway behind him, or as his screen glitches to suggest disturbance. It's everything we've seen since "Screenlife" horror rose to popularity with titles like The Den and Unfriended, just specific to Ken's situation. We're watching him reassemble his life after a breakdown, and Walker does well to engage with Ken's inner demons while confronting literal ones in his daily life. Ken struggles to stay consistent in contacting his children and has an obsession with a Pepto-Bismol-type product that he mixes with coffee or liquor, as well as an apparent drinking problem. Not all horror films can present characters like Ken, who draw attention themselves while their nightmare manifests.

What's frustrating is that Night's End feels like it has a low ceiling in terms of production quality. The familiar haunted trappings of Ken's apartment are meant to become more dangerous upon the third act's livestream payoff — but the low-budget affair can only accomplish so much with digital demon effects and what practical crafts we do see. The storytelling delivers, and Neveu modernizes haunted-house blueprints with internet connectivity, but the effects lack the impressiveness of Reeder's Knives and Skin acclaim. It seems to be a case of a filmmaker doing everything possible with their resources, saved by Reeder's confidence behind frightful minimalism that tackles typically isolated horror tale-telling primarily online.

Verdict

At Night's End's best, director Jennifer Reeder is able to brighten Ken's apartment routine with warm pink lighting and be more than just another coming-of-middle-age story with apparitions. At its worst, Night's End exists as an easily digestible if less filling menu option for horror fans. Geno Walker delivers a strong-enough leading performance as his character goes against all horror movie logic and pays consequential prices — a point made intentionally by the plot — which helps Night's End stave off a far more forgettable fate. It's not the first title I'd recommend to brand-new Shudder users ready to discover the platform's countless gems, but it's no irredeemable loss either. Night's End is a serviceable thriller that blends YouTuber commentaries, online realities, and haunted house templates into a contemporary ghost story that might not buck expectations, yet earns its breezy runtime and forwards horror conceptualization in all its devilishness.

In This Article

Night's End

An anxious shut-in moves into a haunted apartment, hiring a stranger to perform an exorcism which quickly takes a horrific turn.
Initial Release
March 31, 2022
Platforms
On-Demand
Genres
Horror
Night's End Review
7
good
Director Jennifer Reeder is back with Night’s End, which may not reinvent the wheel in terms of haunted house flicks, but is still serviceably spooky nonetheless.
On-Demand

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