Isolation can bring out the worst of our demons. This is something that many of us can understand better since 2020, with many of us having to isolate ourselves in order to keep ourselves healthy and safe from COVID-19. That’s why the arrival of NIGHT’S END may feel relatable to some.
When we meet Geno Walker’s Ken Barber in NIGHT’S END, his routine and attempts to control his reality make sense. The escalation of his inner demons more so upon the discovery of a potential haunting. The conversations Barber has with his friends mirror the struggles many may face in trying to open up or connect whilst isolating and/or struggling. Unfortunately, many will get lost on Ken Barber’s journey upon reaching the film’s final act, with head-scratching decisions puzzling rather than succeeding in execution.
NIGHT’S END stars Geno Walker (“Chicago PD”), Kate Arrington (Knives and Skin), Felonious Munk (“For Life), and Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water). The film is directed by Jennifer Reeder (V/H/S/94) and is written by Brett Neveu.
Geno Walker’s performance is a highlight in NIGHT’S END. He imbues Ken Barber with subtleties that bring the viewer in. His approach to crafting a relatable portrayal of anxiety onscreen feels refreshing. As we watch Barber begin to spiral back into the grips of alcoholism, Walker’s performance combined with Reeder’s direction facilitates great empathy. Unfortunately, story choices made during the film’s climax and ending ultimately undercut the overall impact Walker’s performance could have had. The choices distract and overshadow anything he brings in the film’s final act.
NIGHT’S END loses itself in its transition from the second act into the final act, which is unfortunate. Cheesy effects and a sharp right tonal turn into unexpected campy territory have the impact of taking a viewer out of the film. A more subtle transition that started sooner in the film might have helped out better here. Or, if the film had started off in a campier vein, that might have helped alleviate some of the eyebrow-raising that occurs in that climax. As is, from a tonal standpoint, it’s the equivalent of having cold water thrown at you.
All that said, it is impossible to deny the importance of what the film brings in its focus on male mental illness. It’s difficult to ask for help and, as we see in NIGHT’S END, there are cracks in Barber’s support network. It can be argued that the lack of character development in the ensemble cast plays into the idea of Barber’s isolation. He’s closed himself off, which makes it difficult to see beyond what he is receiving from them. Another element that is important that can’t be glanced over is that the one person who happens to validate his concerns surrounding the haunting in his isolation is, ultimately, the one who means the most harm. It’s a shame the final act diverges the way it does because there is something worth discussing here that gets buried too deeply later on.
Ken Barber’s apartment is shot beautifully by cinematographer Christopher Rejano. No inch is left unturned by the camera. At times, though, the amount of time spent on lingering shots of the apartment’s sections read like filler. Some moments captured are symbolic, like tomato soup bubbling over, or to indicate to the viewer the transition from day to night. However, aside from where we begin in the film and the scares set up, there are moments where it’s difficult not to question the heavy leaning on these apartment shots.
NIGHT’S END has strong potential to be something great. The discussion of male mental illness and isolation is an important one that screenwriter Brett Neveu presents to us. Unfortunately, what starts off strong ends up getting buried by a tonal disturbance in the Force. If there had been a smoother transition done earlier on, perhaps the change would have been less jarring. As is, the breadcrumbs we are left connecting to Ken Barber’s mental state get scattered by the wind. Yes, we can still see them in the distance, but it’s difficult to see what could have been had things not been blown offcourse.
NIGHT’S END will premiere on Shudder on March 31st, and will be available on Shudder US, Shudder CA, Shudder UKI and Shudder ANZ.