Though less tied to lockdown and zoom than Host or Untitled Horror Film, Night’s End feels like a film tailored specifically to pandemic working conditions – not that the genre suddenly discovered shut-in horror in the last two years.
Ken Barber (Geno Walker), a divorced Dad with various diagnosed and undiagnosed mental issues, has moved into an apartment in a new city and settles into something very like agoraphobia while making self-help or lawn care internet videos that attract very few views. When a stuffed bird falls of a shelf behind Ken while he’s online, his friend Terry (Felonious Monk) suggests he switch the focus of his activity to ghost videos – an idea enthusiastically approved by Ken’s ex-wife Kelset (Kate Arrington) and her husband Isaac (Michael Shannon). This prods Ken to research the building and find an angry axe-attacker who might be one of the ghosts bothering him, and leads to a hook-up with saturnine, jovially sinister occultist Colin Albertson (Lawrence Grimm) and paranormal promulgator Dark Corners (Daniel Kyri) … culminating in a live-streamed summoning and exorcism ceremony involving a spirit jar and incantations, which doesn’t go the way Ken might have hoped and allows for an eruption of ‘80s-style demonic horror into a lower-key, edgy 2020s scenario.
Directed by Jennifer Reeder (Knives and Skin) from a script by Brett Neveu, this depends a lot on the lead performance and Walker makes Ken into a compelling neurotic protagonist even as he’s prevailed on, manipulated, nagged and guilt-tripped into more and more dangerous situations, ostensibly for his own good but often just to satisfy the darker, controlling impulses of the various friendly folk who pop up on his screens. The film stays almost entirely within one room of the apartment, which has a lot of ominous tells (newspaper taped over the windows, stuffed birds, an all-liquid fridge, gro-lamps), and Reeder gets into Ken’s obsessive rhythm with drinks and an exercise device that might also be an implement of torture. The manifestations, CGI-assisted but with some nice lurking figures, are hokey, but the jitteriness feels real.