Dark Houses & Dangerous Dogs – Rediscovering ‘After Midnight’ (US 1989 – 90 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - March 30, 2016
Dark Houses & Dangerous Dogs – Rediscovering ‘After Midnight’ (US 1989 – 90 mins)

A watchable horror compendium that actually contains decent segments within a fairly strong wrap-around story, ‘After Midnight’ was much better than I expected. Coupled with a creepy atmosphere and a cast that took it mostly seriously, it’s a fun addition to the long tradition of anthology horror.

When eccentric psychology tutor Edward Derek (Ramy Zada) humiliates one of his students during class, the vengeful jock seeks revenge one stormy night while Derek and some of his students are telling each other tales on the subject of “fear”.

The three tales told are actually pretty good, with no really weak story among them. First up is ‘The Old Dark House’, which centered on a couple whose car breaks down outside a creepy old mansion which harbours a deadly past and even deadlier present. This was my favourite of the three stories and had an ending I didn’t see coming. Next was ‘A Night on the Town’, where four teenage girls find themselves at a broken down gas station, complete with a perverted attendant and a pack of ferocious dogs. While it’s fast-paced and exciting in places, it was my least favourite segment. Lastly we had ‘All Night Operator’, a tense tale of a light-night telephone operator who gets caught up in a stalker’s deadly rampage. This was a very good story which could easily have been longer without losing steam. To be fair, all three tales were pretty good, with this final one being the creepiest and best shot.

After these tales are told, Derek heads off to the basement where the vengeful jock is waiting for him. Knocking him out, he hangs Derek upside down before starting a fire underneath him. After freeing himself, things take a wild turn before fantasy and reality interlace, bringing with it a warning of things to come!

I thought the acting was above average for a low budget genre picture, although the only recognisable face to me was Marc McClure, who played Jimmy Olsen in the original ‘Superman’ films, and was also Dave McFly in ‘Back to the Future’ (’85). Ramy Zada impressed as the tutor but, with a mostly female cast, two particular actresses stood out. Jillian McWhirter was quietly mysterious as the psychic Allison in the wrap-around segment ‘Allison’s Story’, and Marg Helgenberger was also strong as the doomed telephonist in ‘All Night Operator’. Interesting to note that Helgenberger and Alan Rosenberg, who played the stalker in this segment, were married in real life.

Writer-directors Jim and Ken Wheat went on to script various genre pictures, including the below average ‘The Birds II: Land’s End’ (’94) and the cult favourite ‘Pitch Black’ (2000).

Although it’s clichéd and fairly unoriginal (especially the foretelling ending), there was enough tension and creepy moments throughout to warrant ‘After Midnight’ a well deserved thumbs up, and one I would happily revisit on an appropriately stormy night.

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