Heather (Michelle Rose) and Mark (Kurt Yue) move into a new house, following the tragic loss of their daughter. Michelle is a former army sergeant, now working a job she dislikes. Mark is unemployed and their financial situation is strained. They awake in the middle of the night to find themselves confronted by a home invader, who promises them $10,000 if they let him go. Predictably, you just can’t trust burglars these days, and in an ensuing struggle Michelle shoots him dead.
Mindful of their precarious finances, Mark concludes there must be money hidden somewhere within the house and suggests they withhold calling the police for an hour in order to search for it. Duly convinced, the couple sets about searching their new property, but not before they discover the home invader was not alone and they are trapped inside by his accomplice, Moody (Michael Aaron Milligan), who is not prepared to walk away.
By Night’s End is the first feature from writer-director Walker Whited and for a low-budget thriller, it’s pretty good. It is predictable and struggles with the requisite tension at times, but the backstory of a couple dealing with tragedy and the resulting friction in their relationship adds depth and an extra dimension to proceedings. It acquits itself well and makes for an entertaining, if undemanding thriller.
The performances are convincing, with Michelle Rose and Kurt Yue both good in the lead roles. Michael Aaron Milligan has a great time as the bad guy, although we could do with a little less charisma and a lot more menace to really highlight the stakes involved.
By Night’s End is one of those movies where a great deal of bloodshed could’ve been avoided if someone had just exercised a small amount of rational thought at the beginning. Nobody thinks clearly at any time, so events continue to spiral out of control until everybody finds themselves embroiled in a right old mess. The rapidly escalating nightmare feels believable for the majority of the movie, however Mark’s initial thought process stymies all logic. It overlooks one glaringly obvious question: Why take one hour to search the house for whatever the burglar was looking for? Why not just call the cops on a home invader and search the house at leisure once everything has died down? But since we’re feeling charitable, let’s say Mark was not thinking clearly in a high-pressure situation and leave it at that.
By Night’s End shares common ground with David Fincher’s Panic Room, and more specifically recent Kevin James thriller Becky, which has a similar plot (criminal hides object in unsuspecting homeowners’ abode) and similar issues – the item the criminals are after is somewhat underwritten. For a large proportion of the movie, the object is a complete mystery. This works nicely to begin with, but without feeding us any further clues until a third-act reveal, intrigue is quickly replaced by indifference, and it’s hard to apportion consequence to the unknown.
Overall though, By Night’s End does well with everything at its disposal, utilising the one location to full effect and showcasing a bit of style when required. From tracking round the perimeter, peeping in the windows à la Halloween, to some slow-motion gunplay that helps orient us in the dark and gloom of the night time environment.
So while there might not be anything new going on, there’s really not a lot wrong either. By Night’s End is a competent and largely enjoyable home invasion thriller.
In the US, ‘By Night’s End’ hits digital platforms (Amazon, iTunes, DirecTV, FlixFling, Google Play, Vudu and AT&T) on Oct. 6th.