By Night’s End is the new feature film debut of director Walker Whited and writer Sean McCane, both of whom have worked on a number of short films (McCane usually in audio engineering.) The first thing that readers of this particular site may be interested in knowing is that By Night’s End is NOT a horror film, but instead a home invasion thriller with a few light action sequences, as well as some tacked on family melodrama via a fairly unneccessary subplot, which might be more invasive than the film’s antagonist(s).
Heather and Mark are a married couple who have recently moved into a new home. Both are struggling to make ends meet. Heather (stuntwoman and actress Michelle Rose) is a former Army Sergeant dealing with PTSD, now working in the business world and fearful that she may lose an upcoming promotion, if not her job, due to her company’s questionable dealings. Her husband, Mark (Kurt Yue), is currently out of work with little opportunity seemingly present.
Making matters worse for the couple, they are both still dealing with loss and grief after having recently lost their young daughter to a drunk driver. Why either of these two thought this would be the ideal time to make such a financial investment is just the first of many questionable or just outright dumb choices they will make throughout the film. (To be fair, I don’t believe that it is ever said that the couple bought the home, but it seems like a safe enough assumption. It also wouldn’t make much difference on my overall opinion of the film if I were wrong.)
Unbeknownst to either, just prior to their moving in, a thief hid something somewhere in their house; something that is of great importance to some other rather nefarious gentlemen. As the couple are sleeping one night, the thief returns to retreive his stash, alerting Heather to his presence. Grabbing a handgun from her bedside, she searches the perimeter, finding a door open to the crawlspace under her house. As she investigates, she can hear the man yelling at her husband in the house above. Using what I can only assume is some Ecco the Dolphin-level sonar bullshit, Heather pinpoints the intruder’s position and fires 2 rounds through the floorboards, dropping the perp.
Returning back inside the house, Heather holds the man at gunpoint while ordering Mark to call the police. In an effort to talk his way out of the situation, the man offers to pay them $10,000 if they let him go. However, the deal is cut short when he attempts to draw a gun and is shot dead by Heather. Intrigued by the money, Mark convinces his wife to wait one hour before calling police, believing that whatever is hidden in their house has to be worth much more than the $10,000 that was offered.
While searching for the money, the couple also try to come up with an explanation for why they waited so long to call the police. This provides them ample opportunity to make numerous bad choices, such as moving the body and using their towels to clean up blood. It also allows them the chance to find the two-way radio that the man was carrying and to meet the even bigger threat waiting just outside their house. They don’t have to wait very long as he allows himself in to the house soon enough.
Meet Moody, the film’s central protagonist and quite possibly the only character in the film with any common sense. The character is remniscent of many great action movie villains of the 80’s and 90’s, spouting witty one-liners and sporting his own stylish look, which here would probably be best described as “cowboy pimp”. Michael Aaron Milligan (V/H/S: Viral, Don’t Kill It) gives easily the most entertaining performance in the film as “Moody”, stealing most every scene he’s in. Really, what good is an action film (or horror film, for that matter) without a memorable bad guy?
That’s not to say that the other performances are lacking. In fact, I thought that both Rose and Yue did admirable jobs of bringing their characters to life, particularly Yue as a husband who finds himself emasculated by his wife’s past, as well as her ability to bottle up her stress and pain. Unfortunately, I found both characters to be rather unlikable when constrasted with the charisma of Moody… and this is kind of a big problem! In time, I found myself rooting for both Heather and Mark to be killed, which I highly doubt was the filmmakers’ intention.
The couple continue to make some really poor choices, especially once a second dead body finds its way into the house. Because of their numerous prior gaps in logic, it seems somewhat illogical when the action picks up in the final act and Heather’s military training predicatably resurfaces to make her a one-woman army capable of saving the day (or night) against a small team of killers. That’s not to say that the sequence isn’t entertaining; it’s just a little far-fetched and possibly trite. That said, I guess it’s just as overdone in the countless action flicks starring men in the lead.
Ultimately, By Night’s End is nothing that you haven’t seen before. That said, it arguably provides just as much satisfaction as many other films of its ilk. It’s well-acted and fast paced enough to keep you from getting too bored, but some superflous melodrama does drag it down a bit. It probably won’t be anyone’s next favorite movie, but I’d recommend it, albeit with lowered expectations.
By Night’s End is distributed by DarkCoast, and was released to various streaming sites on October 6th, 2020. The film is available to watch on Amazon, iTunes, DirecTV, FlixFling, Google Play, AT&T, and Vudu.