By: Steph Cannon
We live in an age where social media is king, and “influencers” can make millions from views of their streaming content. There are many who lose hours of their day by falling down a digital rabbit hole, faithfully watching each new segment put out by their favorite YouTuber. It is, at least in some way, a symptom of our voyeuristic nature, as well as an inherent need to be part of something sensational. For Ken Barber (Geno Walker), the anxiety-riddled protagonist of Shudder’s new original movie NIGHT'S END, that desire to document every aspect of one’s life produces disastrous and terrifying results.
When we first meet Ken, we see that he’s suffering from severe anxiety and OCD, structuring his life around various rituals and isolating himself in his apartment, completely closed off from the outside world. His only contact with anyone else comes from video chats with his friend Terry (Felonious Munk), and ex-wife Kelsey (Kate Arrington), both of whom attempt to counsel him in getting his life together. Terry plays the part of the good-natured bro who offers up the occasional tough love, while Kelsey comes across as sympathetic and compassionate.
Despite their divorce, there seems to be a solid friendship between the two of them, which on one hand is refreshing to see, but on the other, is perplexing when she shows little anger in the fact that Ken hasn’t spoken to, or attempted to see their daughters in months. Aside from halfhearted requests from her to “call the girls” at the end of their video conversations, she gives him a considerable leeway on his absenteeism.
While such behavior is puzzling, it also leaves room for an in-depth study on the type of person Ken is. It would be easy to write him off as an unlikeable character and a “deadbeat dad”, but it’s clear he’s someone who is suffering under the weight of his own disorders, unable to hold a job or carry on a normal life. He isn’t devoid of hobbies, though; passing his time with taxidermy and recording videos on various life tips (which is glaringly ironic), which he posts online. His hope is that he can gain enough viewership and ad revenue with these videos to make an income to survive, an idea that gains support and encouragement from Terry and Kelsey.
It’s during one of these videos that Terry notices one of Ken’s taxidermy birds falls off of a shelf behind him, as if pushed off by an unseen entity. The ghost jokes immediately begin, and not just from Terry, but also other viewers. Ken launches into an investigation of his apartment building and its history, and discovers that it has a sordid and frightening past. Rather quickly, disturbing and unexplainable things begin happening, both inside the apartment and to Ken himself, which offers up moments of good, old-fashioned haunted house scares.
Desperate for a solution, Ken seeks out the guidance of author Colin Albertson (Lawrence Grimm), whose book Ghosts and Their Personas promises useful information that can banish ghosts and spirits. Colin hilariously looks exactly how you’d expect a paranormal expert and self-proclaimed spirit exorcist to, and his personality is overly dramatic and intense. He tells Ken that he can help him get rid of the ghosts plaguing his life, but in order to do so, he’ll need a “spirit jar,” a talisman of sorts, that can be used to ward off spirits.
Colin seems all too eager to help Ken, even offering up his own spirit jar when the one Ken makes ends up backfiring, and making the situation worse. The actual act of handling the ghosts with the spirit jar is set to happen via a popular supernatural live streaming channel, with Kelsey, Terry, and thousands of others watching it all unfold. As you would expect, the events that transpire for all to see are anything but smooth, and the tension and stakes ramp up substantially.
You can’t take your eyes off the screen for even a second during NIGHT'S END, or you’ll miss scenes that are equal parts terrifying and important. Director Jennifer Reeder has carefully woven a taut, smart tale that takes the audience on a wild ride from start to finish, filled with both jump scares and psychological mind games. It’s a quick, fright-filled story that doesn’t waste a single moment of its tight 82 minute run time.
NIGHT'S END will premiere on Shudder on March 31, 2022.