Brant Lewis calls Night’s End an enjoyable haunted house experience with a solid supporting cast.
At the height of taking to the internet during COVID-19, horror films like Host (2020) examined the horrors of isolation from others. In NIGHT’S END, director Jennifer Reeder and writer Brett Neveu aimed to explore isolation with a character who willingly secludes himself from the world inside a haunted apartment. Despite having a solid supporting cast and creative paranormal mythology, the film has a thin plot and confusing tonal shifts that make it a fine but forgettable ghost story.
Recluse Ken Barber (Geno Walker) follows the same routine each day, never leaving his old apartment. Ken constantly tries to kick off his YouTube career by recording boring self-help videos to a non-existent audience outside his circle of friends. However, one of his friends (Felonious Munk) mysteriously notices a stuffed bird falling off a shelf in the background, making Ken believe his apartment may be experiencing a haunting. Armed with this knowledge, Ken and his friends decide to have an online exorcism with a popular paranormal YouTuber (Daniel Kyri) and a known occult scholar (Lawrence Grimm). They believe it will make him famous on the platform and get the views he wants, but things are about to go very wrong.
Walker often plays somewhat “straight man” stock characters, which allows the supporting cast of vibrant characters to stand out. Even in their supporting roles, they provide much-needed energy to the story and engage the viewer. Michael Shannon briefly appears as Isaac, the new husband of Ken’s ex-wife, and spends most of his screen time talking about the paranormal videos he loves. Similarly, Munk has excellent chemistry with Walker and perfectly embodies the best friend, egging Ken into exploring the supernatural. Grimm's evil and campy performance can be too much at times but playful. Grimm never hides his character's malicious nature and relishes being the stereotypical English villain.
Although the film doesn’t go in-depth, its mythos helps NIGHT’S END stand out amongst similar films. Neveu and Reeder aim to transplant the paranormal occurrences onto the internet within the story. Neveu includes intricate rituals, and a homemade device called a spirit jar to trap the ghosts. In one scene, after Ken reads aloud an incantation with his spirit jar to Terry over a video call, the camera glitches and flashes with Ken's horrified expression. The exorcism performed via Zoom is unique, taking place entirely online. These aspects are easily some of the film's highlights, providing most of the scares and world-building in Ken’s secluded space.
The film examines Ken's experience as a hermit and how the haunting affects him. However, this takes a back seat when a new subplot overtakes the narrative. After Ken realizes the hauntings have the potential to make him a successful YouTuber, the main plot gets lost. The story's themes get muddled. Reeder splits focus, and it’s unclear if we’re meant to concern ourselves with the isolation and haunting, the dangers of wanting fame or playing with the paranormal over the internet. As a result, the story is weaker and meanders as a new thread develops. The film would have been better if it picked one narrative to follow instead of trying to explore all three.
Reeder and Neveu attempt to replicate the aesthetic of a Zoom call. The camera faces the actors head-on without any of the buttons or overlays expected. The simulated glitches on the video calls do little to assist the desired effect. The framing didn’t differ from the other moments throughout the film, and compared to Host, which successfully utilized Zoom, the technology usage wastes the film’s potential.
NIGHT’S END swings between a haunted house story about isolation and a popcorn horror film about becoming YouTube famous, not unlike Superhost (2021) and The Deep House (2021). The desire for clicks, views, likes, and shares is a dangerous and intoxicating lifestyle. The film's uneven tone makes it difficult to become invested in the narrative. Ultimately, the film works against itself, and the humorous moments significantly limit the impact of the intended scares. The final act doesn’t commit to the horrors of the haunting, making the film a fine, if imperfect haunted house film.
NIGHT’S END is streaming exclusively on Shudder, AMC Networks’ premium streaming service for horror, thrillers, and the supernatural.