Let it All Hang Out
A new psychology professor at the local university has an unorthodox way of teaching his students. A group of young people gather in his classroom to study the concept of “Fear.” The professor lectures them that the only way to truly understand fear is to be very afraid. He then proceeds to blow his brains out in front of the class. Psyche! It was all a trick, designed to scare the hell out of the students. He scares one guy so bad he pisses his pants and runs from the room. The prof gets reprimanded and decides to hold extra classes at his house, all the students invited for a more in-depth approach to their studies. A small group gathers and they tell the most frighteningly scary supposedly true stories they know, all to augment their fear and to get a better, deeper understanding of the emotion. Three tales are told, each one scarier than the last, leading to a brutal and ultimately nightmarish confrontation between the professor, his students, and the boy who earlier pissed his pants. Fear and terror reign, After Midnight!
Basically what we have here is a horror anthology flick. The framing story itself, usually very short in these cases, is actually quite long and serves as a fourth story. The first involves a couple whose car breaks down near an old, supposedly haunted and abandoned mansion. They seek shelter in the house with disastrous results. The second story is about a group of teens out looking for a good time in the city when they run across a maniac vagrant and his three feral dogs. Soon the girls are running and fighting for their lives. The third segment stars a young Marg Helgenberger as an answering service operator who starts receiving creepy and unnerving phone calls from a deranged man. Directors Ken and Jim Wheat (who would eventually help bring us Pitch Black and the Riddick series) do a pretty good job with their stories and their actors (a veritable who’s-who of 80’s B-movies) deliver as effectively as the material will allow. What we have is a decent if not great anthology film, a couple of the stories better than the other two, but overall pretty solid. It won’t set the world on fire and it’s not a lost classic, but this one is worth a watch. Rather bloodless, relying on the performances (which are all uniformly good) and the plots to carry the day.
After Midnight is a movie that got lost in the tide of late 80’s horror films but is an interesting little flick that holds its own. At a time when anthologies weren’t popular, when you had a glut of Slashers and body horror, this film seems almost quaint. It could easily play on TV with a few minor cuts here and there. But don’t let that fool you. Inside is a decent, if not spectacular, flick.
Two and a Half Stars out of Four