Once upon a time, yours ghoulie had his very own “Name That Trauma!” Picture a young, vital (O.K., more like idle) Unk Lancifer living it up back in the early nineties, on his own in the big city for the first time. Technotronic’s “Pump up the Jam” had children and oldsters alike dancing in the streets, SKI PATROL was blasting box office records worldwide and dear cousin Pam had just moved into the Cosby house. The world was my oyster (stinky and impossible to pry open.)
One night after drinking far too many Meister Braus and passing out on my trash picked couch I awoke to find I had left the television on (as ever I didn’t care how Top Ramen poor I was, I had to have cable!) A movie was playing that involved a group of teenage girls lost in a warehouse district of some city being terrorized by wild dogs. Maybe I was half asleep or maybe it was the Meister Brau fairies tap dancing on my head, but I thought the whole thing to be pretty unnerving and it tapped instantly into my steadily growing urban paranoia. It was an anthology movie, but I didn’t stick around for the following chapter. Instead I went back to sleep surely to dream of snarling pooches.
I forgot about the whole thing and soon it was too late to track down the flick’s title. (This was before the Internet and before Google became my third eye.) Still, every once in a while the movie would spring back into my consciousness. As always with such things, whenever I asked others if they ever saw, “The movie with the girls being chased by dogs in the warehouse district” the answer was a big fat “No!”
Well, a couple years back while reading somewhere about the release of AFTER MIDNIGHT on DVD I realized that it was indeed my missing nameless jam. I bought it immediately and jumped happily head first into the wayback machine. Now I can’t tell ya that AFTER MIDNIGHT is the best movie in the world but if you dig anthologies or even just late eighties horror as much as I do, you could certainly find worse ways to spend your time.
Directed and written by the brother team of KEN & JIM WHEAT who also had their hands in such pots as SILENT SCREAM, ELM STREET 4 and even PITCH BLACK, AFTER MIDNIGHT is a strange little package. It opens with a couple of young ladies (one of them is pint-sized PAMELA SEGAL of not only GREASE 2 but THE GATE 2!) on their way to a college class entitled “The Psychology of Fear”. Once there they are witness to something, to put it lightly, a teacher wouldn’t get away with these days. To illustrate some point or other about fear the professor whips out a gun and points it at his students. He then feigns blowing his own brains out.
Rather than call the police or switch schools, a group of the kids meet up with the Prof at his home to exchange scary stories while a humiliated jock who wet himself during the presentation wanders around with an axe outside planning retribution. The stories told by the students become the meat of the film.
The first story told is a classic old dark house tale with a twist finale, the second, my doggie dilemma tale and the third involves CSI’s MARGE HELGENBERGER battling a ski injury, an empty building and a raging psycho. The middle segment remains my favorite. It is not nearly as frightening as I recalled but for compensation it stars PENELOPE SUDROW the, “Welcome to prime time, bitch!” from NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3 and the wonderous TRACY WELLS of MR. BELVEDERE fame illustrating that life may actually NOT be “more than mere survival” by being chomped on hounds and left for dead in the street by her awesomely outfitted gal pals.
I’ll admit it, I’ve had a giant soft spot for horror anthology movies ever since I was traumatized by the weak in retrospect SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT. AFTER MIDNIGHT may not curl your toes, but it has a more successful wrap around story than most and you just can’t underestimate the power of MR. BELVEDERE alumni. Plus it has the scene below in its favor. How can you turn your back on a stop-motion skeleton and the classic decapitated talking head routine? Faults and random lameness aside I say this baby is one LEON REDBONE theme song short of being a keeper. It’s not nearly as good as I remember, but then again I’m sure the same could be said about Meister Brau.