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John’s Horror Corner: After Midnight (1989), a decent horror anthology.

July 30, 2018

MY CALL: Perhaps better than average, I’d recommend this to any horror anthology fan. The special effects are weak and few, but the film largely works past this flaw with some fun story turns.

MORE HORROR ANTHOLOGIES:  Dead of Night (1945), Black Sabbath (1963), Tales from the Crypt (1972), The Vault of Horror (1973), The Uncanny (1977), Creepshow (1982), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye (1985), Deadtime Stories (1986), Creepshow 2 (1987), Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990), Two Evil Eyes (1990), Grimm Prairie Tales (1990), Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1993), Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), Campfire Tales (1997), 3 Extremes (2004), Creepshow 3 (2006), Trick ‘r Treat (2007), Chillerama (2011), Little Deaths (2011), V/H/S (2012), The Theater Bizarre (2012), The ABCs of Death (2013), V/H/S 2 (2013), The Profane Exhibit (2013), The ABCs of Death 2 (2014), V/H/S Viral (2014), Southbound (2015), Tales of Halloween (2015), A Christmas Horror Story (2015), The ABCs of Death 2.5 (2016), Holidays (2016) and XX (2017).

Our provocative wraparound tale (Allison’s Story) introduces Allison (Jillian McWhirter; Progeny, The Dentist 2, Strangeland) and Cheryl (Pamela Adlon; Gate 2, Louie) to their new professor Dr. Derek (Ramy Zada; Two Evil Eyes), who uses extreme methods to teach his course on The Psychology of Fear. To complement their studies, they meet at Zada’s house to tell scary stories to explore their fears…

The first story is about a young couple whose car breaks down by an old manor with a murderous past. With no other option for help and noticing a light on in the purportedly abandoned home, Kevin (Marc McClure; Superman I-IV, Grimm Prairie Tales) and Joan (Nadine Van der Velde; Critters, Munchies) suspect that someone moved into The Old Dark House. This segment takes a very different path than expected and wanders into familiar territory when a misunderstanding turns deadly. This was a great segment!

After a strong start, this anthology hits a pothole with a much weaker entry. A Night on the Town follows four teenage girls getting lost in a bad part of town, chased by a filthy rapey vagrant, and attacked by his pack of dogs. Despite seeing some familiar faces–Judie Aronson (Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Weird Science) and Penelope Sudrow (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3)—this was my least favorite segment and, worth noting, this one is not for dog lovers. The acting and writing were poor and nothing interesting happens.

The third segment (All Night Operator) stars Marg Helgenberger (CSI, Mr. Brooks, Species 1-2) as an answering service operator having a difficult night shift with a disturbed phone stalker. This segment was more middle of the road, feeling like a lesser episode of Tales from the Crypt (1989-1986). Helgenberger fares well, but the other performances felt weak and did little for the basic premise. However predictable, I appreciated the execution of its ending.

Ken and Jim Wheat (writers of The Fly II, Pitch Black, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4) team up to write and direct this so-so, clunky horror anthology. The writing quality varied considerably from one segment to another, dropping considerably after the opening wraparound and The Old Dark House set such admirably high standards at the start.

The segments seem unlinked until the conclusion of the Allison’s Story at the end, one of the better wraparound around stories among horror anthologies. It may not measure up to the wraparounds of Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990)s or Trick ‘r Treat (2007), but few ever could. Allison’s Story closes with the best special effects of the film—a murderous stop-motion skeleton hunting the final girl through the settings of the aforementioned segments.

Thankfully, the film closes as strong as its opening!


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