after midnight | jim wheat | ken wheat | jillian mcwhirter | pamela adlon | ramy zada | thriller | anthology | united states | judie aronson | marg helgenberger | marc mcclure | ed monaghan | alan rosenberg | monique salcido | penelope sudrow | nadine van der velde
Film: After Midnight
Director: Jim Wheat and Ken Wheat
Writer: Ken Wheat and Jim Wheat
Starring: Jillian McWhirter, Pamela Adlon and Ramy Zada
This was a film that I had never really heard of if I’m honest. I sought it out through a search when compiling a list of films for a horror movie challenge I participated in. I needed an anthology film and saw this was from 1989. The synopsis here is a college professor teaches a course called “The Psychology of Fear”. After his methods are questioned, he brings a group of students to his home on a dark stormy night to tell scary stories.
We start with two students meeting up before class. Cheryl (Pamela Adlon) convinced Allison (Jillian McWhirter) to take with class with her. Allison doesn’t want to go as she had a dream that something bad would happen, but she doesn’t know what. The class is taught by Prof Edward Derek (Ramy Zada). The students are excited to learn there isn’t a book and that it is going to be a more interactive approach. This causes a rift though when Prof Derek scares tough guy Russ (Ed Monaghan) to the point that he urinates his pants. Russ flees the class.
The next time they meet, it is a different and a more traditional style, where Prof Edwards gives a list of books they will work from. He does offer those students that want to get the experience he wanted to provide to come to his house that night. The stage is set with Cheryl, Allison and a few other students going there on a dark and stormy night. We also see that Russ has plans for it as well. The students who are still in the class meet with Prof Edwards, who leads off with our first story.
It is titled The Old Dark House. We see a married couple at a nice restaurant that has a beach view. It is Kevin’s (Marc McClure) birthday and his wife is Joan (Nadine Van der Velde) is trying to make it special. She wants to take the scenic ocean road to go home, but he’s tired and it adds an hour onto their drive. She pressures him into going as it is a Friday night. On their way, they drive past an old mansion with an urban legend of five people getting murdered in it. They get a flat tire right outside when they drive over nails and Joan insists they go in to use the phone. They saw a light on and Kevin doesn’t think it is good idea. They do anyways and Kevin finds some shocking things that might not be as they seem.
After that the next story is A Night on the Town. This follows a group of girls, Jennifer (Judie Aronson), Lisa (Monique Salcido), Kelly (Penelope Sudrow) and Amy (Tracy Wells). They’re underage and can’t get into the club, so they drive to find a seedier one that they know they can. It takes them to a rough area and they’re running low on gas. It becomes a nightmare when they go into a station that has a scary man with his dogs.
The last story is All Night Operator where Alex (Marg Helgenberger) comes back from vacation in a cast. She learns when she goes in that her boss Molly (Loyda Ramos) that her the business is struggling so she had to lay-off the rest of the workers. Alex will be all alone that night and she keeps receiving calls for celebrity from Richard (Alan Rosenberg). He is quite creepy and might be dangerous, but Alex doesn’t realize how bad until she lies to him.
All the while we see the party going out at Prof Derek’s place and that Russ is lurking outside. Allison isn’t quite sure what her dream was, but could this all be playing out like she thought?
Now I’m actually a fan of anthology horror films when they’re done correct. I do like that this one has a wraparound story, but I’m not the biggest fan of how it plays out. Allison seems to be psychic. It just doesn’t seem to do enough for it really to matter for me though. It just makes a film that really isn’t supernatural, have a supernatural feel. It doesn’t really ruin anything though, just wanted to make that clear.
As for the other stories, my favorite was the third one. I thought that was the best set up and it built tension to keep me hooked as well. The first one reminds of a movie, but I decided against giving that one as it will give away the reveal for it. The only problem is that it really didn’t build enough for me to really care either. The second story I thought had an interesting set up. I just don’t really understand why it was here and aside from that, it was a bit unbelievable as well. I feel like they would have traveled too far for the dogs to give chase as they do.
I do think that the pacing though is fine here. We never really linger on any of the stories for too long and I think the wraparound story fits to connecting everything. Telling scary stories to each other works and even this class that they’re taking of learning more about fear are also solid ideas. The first classroom scene though would never happen and did take me out of this a bit. I do feel that the stories do build tension, but I think the ending doesn’t live up to what they were going for. I like the implications and how it plays it, but we don’t really get a true ending.
As for the acting, there are some people that I’ve seen other places and they were solid here. Aronson, Helgenberger, Rosenberg, Adlon, and Sudrow all fall into this category here. I’m fine with McClure and Velde. I do think that Zada overacts here and tries to be mysterious. It just didn’t work for me. Monaghan I don’t know if I believe what he does here, but I can see him being angry as it does fit the role he’s playing. The rest of the cast rounded out the movie for what was needed, but none really stand out.
That takes me to the effects of the film. I don’t really have any issues here. They don’t look great, but they did go practical, which I’m down with. There was an interesting scene of a stop-motion like skeleton. It is outdated for 1989, but I didn’t mind it as it remembers of movies from my childhood that I love. I don’t have any issues and I do think the film is shot just fine.
Now with that said, this film has some decent things going for it, but it really just fell a bit flat for me. I like anthology movies that have a wraparound, which this one does have. I like that they decided to keep all of these stories realistic for the most part as well as keeping them all at a good length. The problem does become that the only one I really liked was All Night Operator. I’m not a fan of a lack of ending though. There is some solid acting here and I’d say the rest is just mediocre. The effects are good and I really didn’t have any issues. The soundtrack really doesn’t stand out, but it also doesn’t hurt anything either. Overall I’d say this is just above average to me. Its fine, but nothing that’s overly great if I’m honest and would only recommend if you like anthology horror or cheesy 80’s films.
My Rating: 5.5 out of 10