Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
Directed by: Jim Wheat & Ken Wheat
Written by: Jim Wheat & Ken Wheat
Starring: Ramy Zada, Jillian McWhirter, Pamela Segall, Marg Helgenberger, Marc McClure, Tracy Wells, Judie Aronson, Ed Monaghan & Alan Rosenberg
I’m a sucker for horror anthologies. This subgenre comes with the benefit of knowing that if one story sucks, there will be a new (hopefully better) one arriving in 15 minutes. I discovered 1989’s AFTER MIDNIGHT from a Scream Factory press release. This company has been known for re-releasing awesome obscure horror, along with a few not-so-good titles (why the hell did they even bother with CARRIE 2: THE RAGE and DISTURBING BEHAVIOR?). I also came across some praise for AFTER MIDNIGHT on a few other websites, so I decided to give this obscure little 80s anthology a shot…and am now regretting it. The best story in this anthology is okay, while the rest of the material ranges from mediocre to just plain bad. Like my other anthology reviews, I’ll give my thoughts on each story before grading the film as a whole.
Wraparound: The film’s wraparound follows the students of a unique college course “The Psychology of Fear.” After their creepy new professor (Ramy Zada) is reprimanded for an extreme classroom prank, he decides to offer an extracurricular session at his home. As the students and professor swap scary stories, strange things appear to be afoot. This wraparound kicks off decently enough as Zada’s kooky professor is fun to watch, while there are neat little clues as to what’s actually going on. Unfortunately, things meander after the first story and the final 10 minutes devolve into an incomprehensible mess. The conclusion is an eye-rolling cop-out that might tempt viewers to throw something at their TV screen. This wraparound provides a weak excuse for weak stories in a weak anthology. D+
THE OLD DARK HOUSE: Heading home after a romantic date, a couple (Marc McClure and Nadine Van der Velde) find themselves stranded on the side of a deserted road. With a storm fast approaching, the two take shelter in a creepy old house that has a murderous past. As you might expect, things go bump in the night and the couple begin freaking out. This story’s premise is familiar and clichéd. For the most part, things play out in a simple, stupid way…until a clever twist rears its head. The twist arrives a bit too late in the proceedings and the story ends right after it, but it saves this tale from being flat-out bad. C
A NIGHT ON THE TOWN: AFTER MIDNIGHT’s middle story is easily its lowest point. This tale follows four teenage girls (Judie Aronson, Monique Salcido, Penelope Sudrow, and Tracy Wells) as they attempt to con their way into a night club. After they get lost in a scummy warehouse district, the gal pals find themselves beset by a crazy hobo and his pack of killer dogs. This segment’s only positive quality is its warehouse district setting, which looks convincing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the filmmakers shot this in an actual warehouse district. Other than that, the characters are stupid, the pacing is dull, and the story is downright forgettable (and borderline exploitative as the threat of rape lingers over one long sequence). Other than the setting, I cannot say a single nice thing about this segment. D-
ALL NIGHT MESSENGER: Luckily, not all of AFTER MIDNIGHT is bad because this nifty little story comes along and serves as the only redeemable tale of the bunch. A night shift telephone operator (Marg Helgenberger) receives a series of eerie calls from a psycho (Alan Rosenberg). As the calls become more menacing, the operator begins to fear for her life. This segment gets cheesy at points, but good acting (a rarity in this film) and bits of suspense elevate the clichéd material. I particularly enjoyed the final shot that leaves things on an ambiguously creepy note. This last story isn’t great, but it’s decent…and decent feels like great when compared to the rest of AFTER MIDNIGHT’s lame offerings. B-
Lots of horror anthologies were released during the 1980s. Some of these films are remembered fondly (CREEPSHOW being a perfect example) and others have been forgotten to the sands of time. AFTER MIDNIGHT falls into the latter category and deserves to languish away there. There’s one decent story of the three (four, if you count the flimsy wraparound), but the rest of the tales range from tedious to terrible. I don’t recommend checking out AFTER MIDNIGHT. This film isn’t a complete failure, but you can certainly find plenty of horror anthologies that are miles better and scarier than this.