Synopsis: Horror anthology about a college professor teaching a course called “The Psychology of Fear”. He brings his students to his home, one dark and stormy night to tell scary stories.
Stars: Jillian McWhirter, Pamela Adlon, Marg Helgenberger, Ramy Zada, Alan Rosenberg
Director: Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat
Running Length: 90 minutes
TMMM Score: (6.5/10)
Review: In my earlier review of Cat’s Eye, I noted that anthology style films can suffer due to a lack of audience investment. The short tales that make up films like Cat’s Eye, Tales From the Darkside: The Movie, and After Midnight are compact mini-movies that are tied together via a through line that can act as its own scare tale. Cat’s Eye and Tales From the Darkside: The Movie both had well-handled plots that are weaved together in a tongue and cheek fashion. What drags down After Midnight is a jumping off point that never hits its mark the way it probably should.
With the (very) thin premise of a group of college kids gathered at an unconventional professor’s house to “tell scary stories”, After Midnight is a middling horror that’s mostly forgettable but noteworthy for a few clever twists and a spattering of respectable shivers. I’d never heard of the film before but in browsing the horror section of Filmzilla (seriously, if you miss the experience of renting a movie check this place out!) I came across this and decided to dive in and see what I got myself into.
Like Cat’s Eye, this is divided into three tales relayed by a few members of the group. Why there are about eight people present and only three tell their stories is something you’ll have to take up with the writer/director Wheat brothers. The professor (soap star Zada) has questionable acting skills but spins his tale with a nice blend of crazy-eyed excitement and a nice ominous tone. Following a couple that are stranded by the side of the road and decide to investigate a dark mansion in the distance, you may find yourself wondering if the couple will soon be doing the Time Warp ala The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Alas, no singing or dancing is to be had as the tale is more interested in misdirection than being really cohesive.
The second story involves a group of girls (dressed in pretty amazing 80’s fashions) as they run out of gas in the wrong side of a sleazy town. For a while, it’s a sassy spin on another 80’s film, After Hours, until it turns dark and the question of “Who Let the Dogs Out?” couldn’t be more apropos. Interesting to note that two of the actresses in the group starred in some of the better sequels to popular horror films of the 80’s – Judie Aronson was in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and Penelope Sudrow met her maker in A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. It’s not surprising that both of these women seem to be the most at ease with unleashing their bloodcurdling screams.
The last story to unfold is the one I responded the most to. The lovely Helgenberger (who, thanks to Botox looks exactly the same now and she did when this was released) works at an afterhours call service (remember those?) and is pursued by a psycho that wants to give her a final message. It’s a spooky twist on Sorry, Wrong Number and When a Stranger Calls.
Sadly, everything must come to an end and the ending is a slightly sour one. Try hard to remember that the rest of the film was a harmless attempt at light horror…almost as if these were plotlines rejected from horror television serials of the time. If you can track down After Midnight it might be worth the small amount of time that it takes up in your schedule.