“2 hours ago it was self defence! Now it is murder!”
Directed by Walker Whited
Starring Michelle Rose, Kurt Yue and Michael Aaron Milligan
By Night’s End (2020) follows a couple who have their house broken into into the middle of the night. The intruder claims that he will pay them to let him have a look around, he then reaches for his weapon and they are forced to shoot him in self defence. This leaves them with an opportunity – if they can find whatever the intruder was looking for before they have to call the police, it may be the solution to their financial problems.
“We’re going to stay for 1 hour, we’ll find the stash, and then as soon as we find it, we’re gonna call it in and move on.”
Heather (Michelle Rose) and Mark Barnes (Kurt Yue) begin as your average working class couple. They are struggling to deal with the loss of their daughter and the following dire financial situation after having to pay for hospital and funeral bills. By Night’s End has surprisingly interesting character development. Heather is ex-military, haunted by a death of a subordinate and has been desperately trying to find herself in office work. Rose masterfully portrays the transition as her character is forced to stop running from her past and rely on her military training. Mark, tormented by the death of their daughter, blames himself as he was late to pick her up and she was hit by a drunk-driver. He lost his job and is doing anything he can to take the easy way out. He is the one who wants to find the money that he thinks is hidden in the house and he is also the one who wants to hand themselves over to the intruders when he realises it will not be as easy as just finding the money. As Heather becomes in control of the situation it allows Mark to stop trying to keep everything together, allowing him to show weakness and open up to her. Unfortunately, Yue’s performance misses the mark and needed just a little more emotion to really sell the character against Rose’s Heather.
The character growth is instigated by the villain, Moody (Michael Aaron Milligan). He questions the roles they played in their pasts, forcing them to face the horrible events that have driving the couple apart. He pushes them to reconnect and to move forward.
“Now you’re belittling yourself! Where’s the confidence?”
Milligan plays the perfect antagonist. He makes us laugh and fulfils all the stereotypical fantasies – with the bleach blonde hair, moustache, black hat and maniacal personality. He is a combination of Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)) and Spike (James Marsters – Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)). He begins as the omniscient voice, playing the couple like puppets, and he is the voice of the audience also as he comments on their actions;
“Just leave! What is wrong with you people?”
However as the film continues it becomes obvious that he is following orders from someone else. As he fails to fulfil these orders, he becomes more comical and this removes from the fear he is able to induce;
“No, no. She had a bomby-thingy. I… I don’t need more guys… I’ll find it!”
The failings of Moody unfortunately take away from the suspense of the film, however also create a film that is more about character growth than fear. Nevertheless, Walker Whited still creates a couple of good jump scares.
Whited takes a simple idea, minimal effects and a low budget and creates a really respectable thriller. Unfortunately, the film feels a little confused, as if it was not entirely sure what type of film it wanted to be. By Night’s End leaves you unsatisfied as the comical elements often detract from the suspense so that it just does not reach the height required for a thriller, and these comical elements fall flat too often to provide comic relief. This ruins that perfect balance which is struck in many similar films.
By Night’s End is a decent film which, although missing the mark on several occasions, did have me jumping out of my chair. It is Whited’s debut feature-length film and I am very interested in what he makes next!
By Night’s End is avaliable on Amazon, iTunes, DirecTV, FlixFling, Google Play, Vudu and AT&T on October 6th 2020
Images provided by TriCoast Studios and Rock Salt Releasing.