The Wheat Brothers have managed to rack up a pretty interesting body of work in the horror genre since the eighties, and with “After Midnight” they deliver what is pretty middling as an anthology. In a period that included “Tales from the Darkside: The Movie” shortly after, “After Midnight” doesn’t re-invent the wheel. It’s mostly just an entry of the decade that serves its intended purpose as a horror film that could double as filler for a boring Saturday night.
Allison is talked in to attending a Psychology of Fear class by her best friend, and is inexplicably nervous about attending. The class is run by the unorthodox Professor Edward Derek, who delights in tormenting his class by staging a fake suicide with a gun. After being suspended, he invites his class to his house to indulge in telling true horror stories of their own in an effort to scare one another. What ensues is a trio of mostly passable tales that don’t nearly resemble terrifying but have their high points. I did very much appreciate the epilogue that is left up to interpretation for the audience, channeling “Invaders from Mars.”
“The Old Dark House” is a goofy opening segment about a young couple Joan and Kevin driving down the road at night after a date for Kevin’s birthday and stall on the side. Reluctant to leave, Joan convinces Kevin to seek help at the abandoned Griffith Mansion known for its paranormal activity. This segment is mostly just one big punch line that works for its far-fetched premise. “A Night on the Town” centers on four underage girls clubbing for the night looking for a club to sneak in to. After their car runs out of gas, they realize they’re on the wrong part of the city, and are now being stalked by a maniacal homeless man and his two rabid dogs.
This feels less like horror and more like action and doesn’t pack a punch nor an ironic twist, but it at least gets points for the inclusion of slasher final girls like Judie Aronson, and Penelope Sudrow. Finally, “All Night Caller” is a taut thriller about an all night switchboard operator named Alex (Marg Helgenberger), who is being tormented and stalked by a psychotic caller named Richard. When Richard believes Alex is plotting against him, he makes her his next target. This segment is a bit eerie and definitely has a good time with its gut punch of a final scene. As for the whole of “After Midnight,” it’s not a stellar anthology by any means, but I loved the cast, and general novelty of the whole shebang.