I love horror anthology movies but it’s so rare to find a good one. Aside from the well-known Creepshow, there are very few ones that are actually entertaining for a good reason. Aside from Creepshow the only anthologies that I know were good are Trilogy of Terror 1 and 2 and maybe Cat’s Eye. That is unless I consider After Midnight. This movie is an anthology that is set around a group of college students who come to their teacher’s house for extra credit. He isn’t a murderer but he is definitely obsessed with fear and making people afraid, so naturally the extra credit is for all the students to tell each other scary stories but not just any type of scary story. These stories have to be real horror, meaning that they are horrifying stories that can happen because it’s real. I love these types of stories because of that reason that they can happen to anybody. So lets break the stories down and see if we can isolate the problem as to why they didn’t seem to horrify me.
I should mention that there are major spoiler alerts for anybody who wants to watch this movie.
The first story is about a young couple whose car breaks down next to a creepy mansion. Stranded and out of gas, they decide to ask the people of the house if they could assist them but they soon abandon the idea of asking the people and decide to break into the house and look around. The young woman soon disappears and the man, frightened about the creepiness of the mansion, looks frantically around for her. Then, out of nowhere he sees a mysterious deformed man and he believes the he’s killed his wife so he decides to club him with a bat. Too bad the entire thing was a game that his wife played on him as a way to make his birthday seem memorable. Personally, the reason why it didn’t work for me is because the perspective of the film (meaning that the film follows the man throughout the entire story) breaks from his ‘point of view’ to show us his wife and friends getting the birthday cake ready. I think it would have been more of a shock if we stayed on him up until he takes the axe to his wife’s head and then we see it was all a birthday. Doing this would not only deliver a punch, but it would really add to the creepiness. The believability of this happen is slim but we’ve all ventured into scary places to look around so I can relate to that.
The next story follows a group of girls looking for a wild night or at least a really crazy part to attend, but their curiosity leads them to an old warehouse where two of the girls get held hostage by a sexually assaulting bum. One of the girls who aren’t held hostage distracts the bum while another ends up killing him or knocking his lights out so the group escapes. Unfortunately, they end up having three viciously rabid dogs chase after them all through the underbelly of the city. Now, having dogs chase you, especially rabid dogs, is pretty frightening and coming from experience… it’s even scarier when you’re all alone in the woods. Here, not only do these girls make stupid decisions but they also end up killing dogs by blowing them up. To be fair, the dogs didn’t really seem threatening but rather misunderstood as though they wanted a hug. I think it would have been scarier if the stuck with the crazed bum scenario because there are a lot of them out there and considering that I live in the city, it’s a frightening situation when a crazy or sexually assaulting bum attacks and kidnaps you.
In the third and final story, things get a little creepier. In fact, I actually liked this one a lot because of how it handled its story; driving away from the cliché and doing something a little different. The story follows a young woman who works the overnight shift at an apartments phone answering service but when she gets calls from a mysterious yet unstable man she begins to get worried. As things progress she finds out that this man has been stalking somebody who lives in the apartment and killed her, so now the man starts to stalk the young telephone operator from inside the building. I guess I found it creepy because the stalker seemed real; not only do we see his face but the film establishes that he looks normal and doesn’t have an otherworldly appearance. He doesn’t heavily breath into the phone, he doesn’t scream or toy with his victim. He antagonizes her with where he is in the building. The only problem is, the young woman and her boss are both idiots and that overshadows a lot of the creepiness. As for believability, the stalker seemed more grounded to reality then most stalker movies since he acted and talked like a normal person and I think that’s what it was trying to go for.
When you look at the whole picture, I think I might be a little too critical on this movie since it was probably made for fun and it is 80’s cheese but it does raise the question: why aren’t there any horror anthologies that have stories based in reality. I think it would be a great idea to test out and After Midnight is the first step. It’s the prototype for a great experiment in horror and realism. I can only hope that one day it will be made but for now I guess I have to stick with After Midnight and excuse the awful decision making the characters make.
Edit: Sorry for the big images. Blogger won't rescale them no matter what size I select.