Night’s End, 2022.
Directed by Jennifer Reeder.
Starring Geno Walker, Kate Arrington, Felonious Munk, Michael Shannon, Lawrence Grimm, Daniel Kyri, Theo Germaine, and Morgan S. Reesh.
An anxious shut-in moves into a haunted apartment, hiring a stranger to perform an exorcism which quickly takes a horrific turn.
Recently, two-time Oscar-winning director Bong Joon Ho (Parasite) placed director Jennifer Reeder on a list of must-see filmmakers. It’s not something I necessarily want to debate (unfortunately, I have yet to see her feature-length debut Knives and Skin, or any of her shorts). Still, I feel confident saying this follow-up film, Night’s End, is a disappointing and predictable mess that’s bad even when it seems to be going for an endearing cringe. The less than desirable results are not entirely her fault; she is directing the hell out of this ghost story with style and atmospheric mood lighting (while the narrative unfolds over days and possibly weeks, every scene takes place at night).
What hurts Night’s End is the script from Brett Neveu. It’s centered on the anxious and reclusive Ken Barber (Geno Walker delivering an effective performance of increasing paranoia) seemingly disinterested in reentering society following a divorce, turning into a not-so-promising attempt at kickstarting a YouTube channel where the bulk of the content is lame self-help tutorials.
If the single setting location following around one character wasn’t enough to clue viewers and that this was shot during the pandemic, Ken also regularly scheduled with friends, viewers, and even his ex-wife Kelsey (Kate Arrington, who has worked with Jennifer Reeder before) and her new partner Isaac (Michael Shannon, acting a fool as an aficionado of ghost hunting programming, eating up his bite-sized role with the appropriate amount of cheesy energy). The children from their failed marriage would also like to see Ken again someday, but first, he has to get settled into his new apartment, sort out his income situation, and find the will to reintegrate back into society.
The new apartment is haunted (taxidermy birds start falling off of shelves), with Ken blacking out in front of other characters as apparitions are sneakily visible in the background and generally coming undone mentally. He decides to order some books on the supernatural, which has him contacting and accepting online video chats with its author Colin Albertson (Lawrence Grimm), eager to teach Ken the proper way to construct a spirit jar for capturing ghosts. Supernatural disturbances are also captured during his video chats, leading a famous YouTube ghost hunter to get involved.
For a brief moment during the short 82-minute running time, I began to think that Night’s End could turn out to be a commentary on how easily people are fooled by the sights and sounds of ghost hunting shows and that Ken was manipulating everyone to popularize his YouTube channel and start bringing in ad revenue to live off of. Sure, if that did happen, I would have seen it coming, but at least it would have been intriguing and made for some fun acting challenges. However, Night’s End goes a different, apparent head-scratching route that’s baffling to watch as the movie goes out of its way to give away reveals. It’s almost as if the film is setting itself up for misdirection.
It also doesn’t help that although the film is short, it consistently goes nowhere, with characters bringing up aspects of their lives and the tragic history of the apartment that also has no bearing on the story at hand. Then there are comically bad special effects during the climax, which are at odds with the otherwise grounded approach to the material until the third act. Night’s End is competently crafted but makes for a woefully boring, pointless story with little scares. The former will keep me anticipating whatever Jennifer Reeder does next while I try to forget Night’s End by morning.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com