What would you do if an armed trespasser enters your house late in the night and then offers you 10,000 dollars when you point a gun at him in self-defense? While the right thing to do would be to call the cops, the lure of money can do funny things to your judgment.
The 2020 film ‘By Night’s End’ directed by Walker Whited is a home invasion thriller that follows the story of a couple Heather (Michelle Ross) and Mark (Kurt Yue), who have recently lost a child and their grief is exacerbated by financial troubles. A criminal breaks into their house looking for something valuable he had placed in there before the couple moved in. Heather who is a former sergeant, shoots him dead when he tries to strike a deal with them as bait and begins to pull his own gun out. Instead of reporting the incident, the unemployed Mark insists that the duo first look for the potential fortune that might be hidden within their walls.
While the trailer of the film was sharply edited and was very intriguing, the same cannot be said for the actual movie. Walker Whited who has directed several short films in the past, falters when it comes to the full length feature film format. There is a lot unnecessary banter between the lead characters that diffuses the tension of the situation at hand. As Heather and Mark bicker and hunt for a secret stash, they are being watched. A cat-mouse chase soon unfolds.
The first few minutes are slow, but a cleverly executed violent scene comes out of nowhere in the first half and takes the viewer by surprise. From there on, the pace begins to stutter again. Michelle Ross who plays the protagonist doesn’t have the acting range to emote the complex character of somebody suffering from not just PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) but also the death of a young daughter. However, it was refreshing to see a woman take charge of protecting the family and kick some ass. Kurt Yue as the husband with self-esteem issues was pretty prosaic.
‘By Night’s End’ would have benefited greatly from a stronger antagonist. Moody (Michael Aragon Miller) the bad guy is very generic and seems more like a drunk rocker who you would meet at a bar, than a criminal leading a crew of hit-men. His character is a mere distraction as the home-invasion suspense is overshadowed by the inner turmoils and personal differences between Heather and Mark. A lot of their dialogues referring to the past should have been replaced with flashback scenes. This is a classic case of telling too much and showing very little.
The plot is very promising but its potential is weighed down by mediocre acting and inconsistent cinematography. The shaky camera-work might remind a few viewers of ‘Paranormal Activity’, while the technique worked in favor of the 2007 horror film, not so much in this 2020 thriller.
For all its flaws, there is a strong moral takeaway from ‘By Night’s End’ – greed can never lead to good things. There is another possible lesson here – listen to the wife and call the cops when there’s trouble at home.
‘By Night’s End’ premieres on October 6th (Amazon, iTunes, DirecTV, FlixFling, Google Play, Vudu and AT&T). Shout-out to Tricoast for giving me access to the preview of the film.