As 2022 marches on, Shudder continues to serve as one of the best streaming platforms for more obscure titles and smaller, new horror releases. With March winding down and April just around the corner, Shudder’s latest release, Night’s End, marks Jennifer Reeder’s (V/H/S/94) latest feature-length horror effort. Its story of a reclusive man rebuilding his life who believes his old apartment may be haunted promises a mix of indie horror and technology. Only a small handful of reviews have popped up online. To date, however, critics have largely been unimpressed.
After a nervous breakdown dissolved his career and marriage, Ken Barber has retreated to another city where he lives alone in an old apartment. Suffering from crippling anxiety, Ken is a shut-in who never leaves his home. His only contact is with his friend, Terry, and his wife and her new husband over video chats. Instead of looking for a new job, Ken spends most of his time recording podcasts on random topics hoping something will catch on. But when he suspects that an unseen entity is haunting the apartment, Ken turns to a paranormal expert on the Internet to help him conduct an exorcism.
Night’s End an Effectively Creepy Indie Horror … Until Its Not
Though it’s a ‘small’ movie, Night’s End is ambitious in what it sets out to accomplish. Director Jennifer Reeder and writer Brett Neveu fuse traditional demonic fare with both technology and a mental health narrative. To a large extent, Night’s End uses technology to get around filming during the COVID pandemic like the much better Host. At least for half a movie, however, Reeder crafts an effectively creepy horror movie that relies on atmosphere, lighting, and its claustrophobic setting. While there’s a handful of jump scares – all of which that nail their landings – Night’s End is a slow-burn that steadily increases bits of tension. If nothing else, Reeder ensures you’re committed to Ken’s plight to the closing credits.
…Reeder crafts an effectively creepy horror movie that relies on atmosphere, lighting, and its claustrophobic setting.
And Neveu’s screenplay offers a sympathetic portrayal of its main character’s mental illness that never feels exploitative. Though Night’s End occasionally teases that Ken’s haunting may be imagined, it mostly commits to the notion that something supernatural is unfolding around him. Yet somewhere along the line, Night’s End wildly shifts its tone. For half its runtime, it’s a small, intimate indie horror movie. Until it’s not. Once Reeder introduces its Internet paranormal expert the movie takes a hard left into more silly territory. Once the climax rolls around, Night’s End feels like a middling episode of The Twilight Zone or Outer Limits.
Night’s End Features a Mixed Bag of Performances That Veer as Wildly as its Tone
Despite its shifting tone, Geno Walker’s performance consistently anchors Night’s End. With no castmates to directly play off , Walker largely goes it solo for most of the movie. He gives a layered performance that balances a quiet anxiety – Ken clearly does not want to move forward – with an increasing desperation. In addition, Walker doesn’t overstretch his character’s mental illness. That is, the performance feels both empathetic and grounded.
As much fun as it is to see Michael Shannon here – and he appears to be having fun – he’s a bit enthusiastic for what initially feels like a moody indie horror movie.
Not all of the performances work. Much like the movie’s tone, some of the performances feel like they’re in a different movie. As much fun as it is to see Michael Shannon (Take Shelter, Man of Steel) here – and he appears to be having fun – he’s a bit enthusiastic for what initially feels like a moody indie horror movie. But Lawrence Grimm’s performance is the most polarizing. To say his performance falls on the broad side would be an understatement. Maybe Grimm – playing paranormal expert Colin Albertson – was just following the shifting tone in Night’s End. Regardless Grimm lays it on a bit too thick with a very heavy-handed delivery that threatens to drag the movie into comedic territory.
Night’s End Squanders a Promising Start on an Increasingly Silly Story
After a promising start, Night’s End goes slightly off the rails in its final act. Reeder also ensures what’s on screen intrigues – this is a watchable movie from start to to finish. And Walker is always convincing as a man struggling with his grasp on reality. But the movie’s tone shifts wildly at the end and some of the performances are more in keeping with that shift than what proceeds it. Though Night’s End shows a lot of promise, it ultimately falls short.