The pandemic has been one of the biggest obstacles that the film industry has ever faced. It not only stopped millions of people from going to theaters, but it also halted many productions and made other ones simply impossible. We might never know how many productions just simply vanished from the schedule because of the pandemic. As a consequence, filmmakers had to adapt and find new ways to tell their stories. One of those ways was to just make a film with as few people as possible, and another one was to take advantage of the technologies that had grown during these trying times.
Video calls also became the norm immediately as a way to keep in touch with coworkers and loved ones through the lockdown. The technology allowed people to talk and share even when they could not go outside, so why not make a movie with that technology as well? People could certainly relate to the characters if done right, well. Night’s End is one of the movies that chose to tell its story by making use of video calls as the main way characters interact with each other. The result leaves a lot to be desired.
Night’s End is directed by Jennifer Reeder and stars Geno Walker, Kate Arrington, Felonious Munk and Michael Shannon. The film tells the story of Ken, a recluse shut-in who has been having trouble getting his life together after failing in a previous relationship. When Ken moves to an old apartment, he discovers that the place could be haunted. To solve his problems, he will look for help from family, friends, and some suspicious dark figures.
Shudder has already made a movie during the pandemic era that pulls off the collective experience of living through these times. Host was released just a couple of years ago, and it did amazing when trying to encapsulate a new reality where most of our interactions come in the form of video calls over the internet.
Host managed to capture that feeling of awkwardness and loneliness that encompasses this new age. Night’s End tries to do the same by having a character that only communicates with others through video calls and makes the excuse of having the character be a shut-in.
However, as the movie moves forward, the set-up becomes more and more constrained by the outside forces that are making the production the way it is. That is, the film never fully explains why everyone is constantly communicating via Zoom calls. There are no emails, no phone calls, no visitors, no text messages. At that point, it is clear the movie is this way not because of the story itself, but because the real world is affecting the production of the movie.
On top of this element that totally breaks the immersion, the script by Brett Neveu is filled with bad dialogue throughout the whole movie, and the actors cannot possibly elevate it, but only make it worse. It feels like all the actors delivered their lines in an isolated form, talking to an empty screen with no reply whatsoever.
Most acting is reactionary, and here the actors’ reactions don’t really match with what is happening on screen. They are not really seeing it; they are imagining it, trusting that the director and visual effects teams can do their reactions justice. They don’t.
Oscar-nominated actor Michael Shannon is in this movie. We know how talented he is, and he still is, while clearly making very little effort. It is weird to see him in a movie such as this, but when he appears, the movie goes from trying to be a scary movie, to becoming a parody of one.
The third act stretches itself to the max, as if by doing so it thinks it can create some sort of atmosphere. The result is the opposite, as the last act is just funny. Actors, cinematography, dialogue, and visual effects combine to create a very funny final sequence that falls into camp territory really fast and never turns back.
When the movie ends, it is clear that the filmmakers were trying to tackle serious themes like mental health, isolation, and how the pandemic has affected tons of people’s lives all around the world. However, the execution of these themes was so poor that, at the end, everything felt like it was being thrown together with no real thought behind it.
The last act transforms this horror movie, where the “ghost” could be just the characters’ inner demons, into a demonic possession kind of story that doesn’t really merge with anything that came before.
Shudder is a cool place with a ton of hidden gems at its disposal, but Night’s End is not one of those. Host did a better job at the beginning of the pandemic with this same subject, and it was actually scary. So, if you really need a scary movie, that is the one to choose. Night’s End just didn’t know where to go or how to execute its ideas satisfactorily. Only the third is watchable thanks to the unintended laughs it will deliver.