After Midnight (1989)
Written and directed by Jim and Ken Wheat
Produced by Michael Bennett, Richard Arlook, Peter Greene, Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat, Allan Dennis, Barry J. Hirsch
Starring Jillian McWhirter, Pamela Segall, Ramy Zada, Ed Monaghan, Patty Avery, Kent Burden, Richard Gabai, Kerry Remsen; Marc McClure, Nadine Van der Velde; Judie Aronson, Monique Salcido, Penelope Sudrow, Tracy Wells, Luis Contreras; Marg Helgenberger, Alan Rosenberg, Jordana Capra, Loyda Ramos, Billy Ray Sharkey
Neither academic ethics nor professional scruples constrain a professor of psychology (devilishly handsome Zada) from terrorizing his students to instruct them on the nature of fear; when his university’s administration bids him to adopt a conventional curriculum, he invites students (McWhirter, Segall, Avery, Burden, Gabai, Remsen) to his home, where they share spooky, secondhand stories.
On the eve of his birthday, punctured tires strand a timid everyman (McClure) and his unshrinking wife (Van der Velde) near The Old Dark House, where macabre murders that recurred years before seem to anticipate impending death.
A Night on the Town is perilously passed by a quartet of teenage girls (Aronson, Salcido, Sudrow, Wells), who are carded and rejected from a nightclub before they venture into a seedy packing district, where they run afoul of a feculent, lecherous lunatic (Contreras) and his vicious, unrelenting dogs.
Her broken leg ruined the vacation of an All Night Operator (Helgenberger), and hobbles her during a nightly shift at an obsolescent answering service, where she fields calls from a maniac (Rosenberg) who’s morbidly obsessed with a soap opera’s star (Capra).
Deficient distribution of their anthology to fewer than 230 theaters grossed $76K against its budget of $3.5M, which effectively ended the directorial (though not auctorial), conjoint career of the Wheat brothers, whose positively policeless, predictable, pedestrian horror is bereft of scares. These recycled banalities are invigorated by a palatably hammy cast (esp. Zada, Van der Velde, and spouses Helgenberger and Rosenberg), Phedon Papamichael’s rich, dusky cinematography, and a late-’80s flavor that’s likely to gratify nostalgists who’ll overlook its triteness.