What would you do if a burglar came into your home looking for something that is worth $10,000 right before he dies? That is the dilemma that Heather and Mark find themselves in during this all night thriller directed by Walker Whited. Heather, played by stunt-woman and actress Michelle Rose (Maid to Order/Avengers: Endgame), and her husband Mark, played by actor Kurt Yue (Venom/The Hate You Give), grapple with morality as their financial troubles weigh over their decision to either call the authorities right away or to call later so that they can search for what the burglar was looking for and alleviate their financial situation.
However, Heather and Mark are not alone for long as their search for the burglar’s prize turns up empty. The real antagonist shows himself as Moody, played by Michael Aaron Milligan (The Captive Nanny/24: Legacy), who tries with all his might to get into the house and take his partner’s stash. Negotiations and feuds ensue as a cluster of encounters turns a trying night into a night of survival.
As the title suggests, this movie takes place mostly during the night, which cinematographer Philip Wages films the hell out of. The night feels like a character, a shadow of despair, that weighs over the main characters constantly through their ordeal until the end where daybreak cracks it apart. Wages fills the screen with shadows that put big budget blockbuster horror movies to shame. The shadows feel present and unique depending on which room the characters are in. The darkness is never far as the house is never entirely lit during the night. The light brightens only so much until it dims into the shadows.
While the cinematography sets the mood and atmosphere for the movie, these actors bring the heart and emotions. There is a scene in an attic later on where Heather and Mark finally get everything off their chest. All of their pent up frustrations and whirlpools of emotions that have been popping up throughout the film are laid bare as they finally confront their past. Rose puts up a powerful performance as she recounts her character’s war story to her husband. The anguish on her face as she relives that memory is haunting. The constant pain on Yue’s face of having to deal with traumatic baggage and blaming himself for it pulls on the heartstrings at every scene, and when you think they’ve hit their wall and this may be their last night together, they pull it all back again and show you how far they’ll go for love, even though life dealt them a painful hand.
Even with all this amazing talent assembling a pretty good thriller, the weakest part of the film, unfortunately, is the script. The movie starts with a fairly interesting scene of the burglar hiding his loot before getting picked up by the authorities. The films then slows down quite a bit as it then skips a few months ahead and we’re introduced to the main characters. The first act is filled with exposition and emotional set up that felt vague and almost unimportant at the time. There is also one piece of information that is very important in understanding where these characters are at this point in their life that isn’t fully revealed until much later, and is probably a missed opportunity in making a really interesting first act. Though from what they fumbled with in the first at, they certainly nailed in the third.
The final thirty minutes of the film is non-stop intense. It starts with an incredible oner (or a single unedited shot – such as Daredevil’s hallway scene) that had me mesmerized and prepped for what was about to go down. There are some really well-done fight scenes with fun choreography interspersed between the tense silent cat-and-mouse game that Heather plays while taking down the bad guys. The final confrontation between Heather and Moody is a great showdown, and Mark is a trooper after how the bad guys treated him. By the time Heather and Mark ride off into the sunset you’ll have felt that you went through a long a night alongside them.
It may have stumbled in the beginning, but it knew exactly how to pick itself up and give you a satisfying conclusion. By Night’s End is a great primer to the spooky season and another good example of 2020 continuing to be the indie year.
By Night’s End will be available on VOD services October 6th.