Our sixth portmanteau horror anthology comes in the form of After Midnight (1989), a three-parter which, unlike the other genre examples we’ve covered recently, actually also has a decent story tying together the whole movie. Also, it has to be noted that the opening music is completely excellent, echoing a little John Carpenter flavour while sounding quite relentless and ominous.
The ongoing story features Allison, played by Jillian McWhirter (who went on to be in two of the EIGHT Bloodfist movies, whatever the fuck they are), who has some inkling that her new psychology professor, Edward Derek (played by Ramy Zada who IMDB reveals doesn’t get any more interesting than this role and the fact that he sort of looks like Columbo) is a tad sketchy. Suffice to say, she’s not completely wrong.
Eventually, for reasons that suspend disbelief and common sense equally, Allison and her friends end up at his house after he offers to give them a seminar in fear. You’d have already left his class after the first ten minutes so quite what Allison is doing there given that he creeps her the fuck out is anyone’s business. Anyhoo, she’s there and it turns out this seminar is just him and a couple of people telling spooky stories.
He opens with The Old Dark House, a cautionary tale of what happens when you go driving near terrifying houses. In this case a couple, Kevin and Joan, end up scuppering their car and, long story short, Joan is wicked annoying and they end up inside the house. It’s the classic horror tale but is mostly played for laughs by Nadine Van der Velde (Joan) who is surprisingly charismatic in the role and Marc McClure (who you’ve seen in about twenty things but can’t place any of them). It keeps you guessing all the way and is pretty strong opener.
Next up is A Night on the Town, which brings us this movie’s Club Tech Noir moment, and features four ladies out for a good time. A good time that rapidly becomes a rather shit one when they can’t get into said club and end up in the sketchy abode of a rapey Mexican who owns three vicious dogs. I didn’t spot it at the time but he’s the fucking security guard from Repo Man (my favourite ever film)! The segment ends up being an odd mix of Cujo and a sort of proto-Death Proof, and has a slightly abrupt ending but is well worth a watch also.
Portmanteau law states that the third and final part, All Night Messenger, has to be a lemon and, well, it’s not. It’s a slightly cliched tale of a lone female, an injured one no less, working a nightshift (in this case at a telephone answering service which is literally something that surely doesn’t exist anymore) and being terrorised by a stalker prick. The lady in question, Alex (played by Marg Helgenberger, a CSI regular and therefore this film’s one true success story) is a little more sassy than your usual stalker victim but is still given a rough time by Richard the stalker and the story’s ending is definitely worth sticking around for.
After the three tales have been told, the main story arc continues to a rather unusual ending (it’s not a twist ending, I fucking hate it when people say ‘I didn’t see the twist coming’ and then you know there’s a twist and that’s all you can think about) and the whole film ends up leaving you satisfied. At least until you start searching IMDB for all the actors because you’ll swear you’ve seen them in things but in fact they mostly went on to do nothing. But, to their credit, most of the performances in this film are reasonably tidy and it probably should be better known than it is. I only found the movie thanks to a tip on our Facebook page. It was a fucking good one though!