Horror is undergoing a modern renaissance. You know it. We know it. We’ve had new classics released as recently as this month. The return of horror to the mainstream has invited many exciting names to the forefront of the genre. Anyone who’s seen 2021’s V/H/S/94 knows that one of those names is Jennifer Reeder, director of the aforementioned anthology’s framing narrative “Holy Hell.” Reeder’s latest film, Night’s End, was released on the Shudder streaming platform just this morning. The director’s success in V/H/S, her partnership with a promising cast, and an intriguing series of trailers and clips have built a decent buzz around the latest Shudder exclusive.
“[Night’s End] wears its independent charm on its sleeve…”
While Night’s End is no big budget Hollywood affair, it wears its independent charm on its sleeve from the moment the sharp 81 minute runtime starts rolling. Geno Walker takes center stage as Ken Barber, in what quickly becomes a haunted house story told through the lens of modern streaming platforms. It’s an up-to-date presentation, even if it’s lacking in truly new ideas. Ken’s between jobs, he’s been through a few recent hardships, and he’s filling his time with content creation. When he spots something moving in the back of one of his vlogs, his confrontation with the supernatural begins.
Those early encounters dial up the tension and shift you towards the edge of your seat. The score provided by CoastalDives holds that tone and keeps your skin crawling between each ghastly beat of the plot. Complimentary performances by Felonious Munk, Kate Arrington, Lawrence Grimm, Michael Shannon and others make those moments even stronger as they help develop a world beyond the film’s single apartment location. For the most part, the commitment to that single location works well. Plastic curtains hang from each doorway and provide ample opportunity for new scares.
“…scares is where Night’s End starts to fall short.”
Unfortunately, scares is where Night’s End starts to fall short. Due either to its limited budget or to a narrative that seems dead set on revisiting the same formula over and over again, the eerie visions of Ken’s haunting grow less and less effective as the movie goes on. By the time the finale plays, you’re begging for something new. You’re begging for a worthwhile payoff, something that finally might make you leap. That payoff never arrives. You settle back in your chair and sigh. Ghosts never appear in more than just the background and their meddling with the environment never amounts to anything more than loud knocking or slammed doors. Neither the middling special effects nor the strange twist in the film’s third act manage to elevate the climax to the same heights reached within the first thirty minutes.
The promise of Night’s End is never fulfilled, but it is a fair outing by a director and cast who surely have more to offer in the genre. I don’t know if anyone could have made this film succeed in more areas than Jennifer Reeder does here. Her masterfully tense framing of Ken Barber and his apartment can’t strengthen the material or the resources on hand. With the right script, Reeder will make an absolutely terrifying feature length film. Night’s End just isn’t it.
Night’s End is currently available to stream on Shudder.