Directed by: Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat
Cast: Jillian McWhirter, Pamela Adlon, Ramy Zada
There are a lot of underrated anthologies floating about out there. I still discover new collections from time to time. It wasn’t long ago I stumbled upon After Midnight. It wasn’t long ago I got one hell of a surprise. This is an anthology short on marquee names but big on no frills terror. Few will know this title, but everyone knows good old fashioned entertainment, something stuffed into just about every moment of this underrated little treat.
It opens with what immediately earned a place as one of my favorite wraparound tales. It’s jarring, right to the bone, and it makes for glorious glue for what are generally unrelated tales. And you’ll understand how special the wraparound is right from the get go, because if there’s any segment that tends to get the skimp action when it comes to anthologies, it’s the wraparound. Well, not in this case. In this case it’s in your face brutal, the film opening on a heavy, tense and terrifying moment and ultimately ending in very similar fashion.
The first story in the flick follows a familiar formula that calls back to a more vintage era of horror. We’re talking about tropes so old they predate your father. But it’s awfully charming and we never get the impression that the film isn’t aware of exactly what it is and what it’s doing. And then there’s the fact that we get an awesomely savage twist. Gotta love that!
The second short gives us more of what we’ve come to expect: the expected. Four young ladies, looking to have a good time, but not quite old enough to get into the club. They’re cruising around, looking for something to do in a part of town they aren’t too familiar with. You know their night is going to find a way to be interesting. I wouldn’t leap to label this particular segment as spectacular or frightening as the previous, but it’s relentless, it features Penelope “Welcome to Prime Time, Bitch” Sudrow and it even features death by dog attack. I’ll take it.
Working for an answering service can be mighty creepy. That’s what we learn from the third story, which has a really creepy realistic quality working for it. The perils of nighttime employment have rarely been showcased in such manner, and it works well for the genre. It always has, even if it’s something of an underutilized angle. These kinds of stories aren’t impossible to find, but they’re not always as unsettling, either. It’s an uncomfortable piece that sadly, still feels relevant today.
I’m tempted to sit and chat the conclusion of the wraparound – the best of the lot, by a great margin – until my mind goes numb. It’s gnarly, and left-field and just… not at all what I expected, but every bit as memorable as the opening moments of the flick. It’s a great little story that gives us some awesome imagery and a to-die-for showdown. I loved every second of it.
After Midnight isn’t afraid to take a few risks and yet it doesn’t shy away from the familiar. The transparency of it all is quite refreshing, and it leaves one wondering how in the world the film doesn’t have a larger fan base. It’s not a seamless production, make no mistake, but know that it has a few really creepy moments and some fantastic material. For my buck, it’s also got one of the greatest wraparounds in existence.