Night’s End is a new twist on a haunted house story. Ken Barber is an anxious guy, living alone in a small and dark apartment, all of his windows covered by newspaper. He lives his life by routines, and he’s got everything in his apartment organized and labeled. He makes YouTube videos on “management tips”, “divorced dad tips”, and so on, despite the fact that his life is actually not so put together.
Director Jennifer Reeder (V/H/S ‘94, Knives and Skin) ensures an eerie and anxiety-inducing experience with Night’s End. The camera lingers on the subjects of Ken’s neuroses: his lined-up cans of tomato soup, his taxidermy, the Pepto-Bismol he puts in his coffee. The camera goes for the unsettling right from the get-go, and it leaves the viewer in suspense, waiting for the next strange thing to happen.
During one of Ken’s videos, a taxidermy bird falls off a shelf behind him. This leads to speculation that maybe his apartment is haunted — and that hauntings make for good video content. As Ken discusses this with friends over video chat, they encourage him to look into this and see if anyone had ever died in the old building. As Ken does this, things begin to get weirder for him, and he becomes more convinced that his apartment is haunted.
Ken (Geno Walker) is not just anxious. He’s agoraphobic, and he doesn’t ever leave his dismal apartment. Ken’s life is repetitive, and this can lead the film to become repetitive too. The repetition of the cinematography and Ken’s days helps us to be brought into Ken’s world and headspace. It’s jarring for him when his routine is shaken by the disturbance in the apartment. What were to happen if the one place you felt safe turned on you?
Night’s End was clearly filmed during the height of social distancing. While the fact that Ken uses video chat to communicate with others is realistic, it’s not the most fun to watch. Ken’s lifelong friend Terry (Felonious Monk) calls him frequently, and provides some slight comic relief during their conversations. While Ken’s agoraphobia prevents him from going and seeing his friends in real life, it would be more entertaining to watch Walker and Monk on the same screen, as you can tell that the two would have good chemistry together.
Eventually we find out what’s led Ken to where he is today. He moved into his new apartment away from his few friends and family to give himself a fresh start. His fresh start, though, is absolutely depressing. Night’s End is a dark and isolating experience, bleak and at times stressful as Ken tries to figure out what is happening to him. It’s timely subject matter, as many of us during the pandemic’s most isolating times had to face our own demons, only able to connect with others through technology.
Night’s End has a few jump scares, as almost all movies about hauntings do. Ken eventually reaches out to an expert paranormal researcher, Colin Albertson (Lawrence Grimm). As with all of Ken’s communications, the two meet together online. Ken eventually gets his haunted apartment featured on a popular hauntings video page, “Dark Corners”. Ken thinks things are starting to look up for him with this news, but they’re actually about to take a turn for the worse.
The most entertaining point in Night’s End is the “Dark Corners” livestream exorcism, which isn’t until the final third of the film. Much like Host, one of the most entertaining and innovative films about a paranormal experience to come out in recent years, this part of the film is entirely engrossing and creepy.
While the ending of Night’s End is far more entertaining and fun than the beginning of the film, it’s also the hardest to believe. We go from Ken’s very real and very bleak world to a scene that is absolutely unbelievable, no longer taking place in the real world. It’s an interesting twist, but one that might make you feel like you watched two separate movies. One, about one man’s loneliness and spiral into a worsening mental state, and the second, a campy ghost story.
Night’s End comes to Shudder March 31st, 2022.
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