Home invasion movies have to be one of the most common types of genre movies these days. Every single filmmaker who is just out there to hone their craft before choosing more challenging and complex narratives makes sure they dip their shoe in the quagmire of invader-fun. With By Night’s End, director Walker Whited makes the transition from editor to filmmaker with a home-invasion movie that leads up to mixed results.
Following a grieving couple who have just moved out to a new house, the film sets up the key element of them being clearly in a financial crunch on the offset. So, when a home invader who had hidden something in their house returns, the movie sets up in motion.
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This invader corners the husband Mark (Kurt Yue), but by the stroke of absolute accurate aim by the wife Heather (Michelle Rose), he limps up before getting killed by her. However, before his abysmal mistake of raising his firearm at the woman (she’s a marine by the way and the movie makes sure you know it numerous times), he tells them that he can offer them 10 thousand dollars if they let him go.
Assuming that the invader was in some kind of live-and-die kind of mess that involves a lot of money or something close to that, Mark swings by an idea by Heather. He says that they do not call the cops just yet and search for whatever the invader was inside the house for. Again, based on total assumption and due to their financially deplorable condition, they allow themselves an hour to search the house for ‘God-knows-what,’ while the invader’s body bleeds out in their bathroom.
Predictably, things don’t go according to plan and more unhinged invaders led by a totally over-the-top Moody (Michael Aaron Milligan) arrive, turning the film into a cat and mouse game sans Panic Room or Wait Until Dark. Sadly, the film is neither as tense as Panic Room, nor a classic like Wait Until Dark. What it is, instead, is a home invasion film that assumes that all its silly antiques will pan out just because it is trying to be unconventional.
For instance, no sane person (yes, including people suffering from PTSD) would make the kind of decisions that Mark and Heather make. I mean, sure bad decisions make great movie plots but By Night’s End just feels like one of those on-paper nice ideas that would have served as a really crisp short film instead of a feature-length debacle.
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Don’t get me wrong, some of it does land. For instance, Milligan’s one-liners are funnily cheeky and since he reminds us of other villains on the same lines, I’d say job well done. Similarly, a few of the hand-to-hand combat sequences towards the end are also well done, thanks to Michelle Rose’s background as a stunt person. The acting, on the other hand, is pretty wooden and all the sequences that are supposed to get you emotionally involved never hit the mark.
Overall, By Night’s End is a home-invasion movie that never manages to build up the tension that the genre requires. Resulting in a film that feels like it is limiting itself from being more than it could have been.