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  After Midnight Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark
Year: 1989
Director: Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat
Stars: Jillian McWhirter, Pamela Adlon, Ramy Zada, Marg Helgenberger, Judie Aronson, Mark McClure, Nadine van der Velde, Monique Salcido, Penelope Sudrow, Tracy Wells, Jordana Capra, Luis Contreras, Loyda Ramos, Alan Rosenberg, Billy Ray Sharkey
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Allison (Jillian McWhirter) is a student about to start her new college, but on the morning of her first psychology class, she is having second thoughts about it all and admits as such to her best friend Cheryl (Pamela Adlon) who tells her to pull herself together and stop being so superstitious - this is a course on fear, after all. What happens when they both arrive in the class seems to bear out Allison's portent of doom, however, the professor taking the study, Dr Derek (Ramy Zada), seems ever so slightly unhinged as he encourages the students to grow scared, all the better to understand the subject - but he goes too far when a cocky student pisses himself and Derek commits suicide.

Wait, what? It's okay, for the professor has not really died, it was a stunt - the urine was real, on the other hand, and said student is very angry about his humiliation, so much so that he grabs an axe and starts lurking around outside the academic's home that evening, the same evening he has invited over his students to perform some extracurricular activities. This takes the form of telling spooky tales that for some reason do not feature the supernatural, as many a horror anthology would, and instead all the twists are easily placed in the real world, though nevertheless they are fairly farfetched so as to sound more like a trio of urban myths related around the hearth.

Perhaps this was to lull us into a false sense of security, since if you got halfway through this movie and started wondering where the monsters were there was a danger the average viewer could have considered giving up, but rest assured there was a reason to stick with it, which was an amusingly nutzoid ending that may have been ripped off from the daddy of all portmanteau horrors, but was executed with some of the invention an eighties shocker could have mustered, complete with a tribute to Ray Harryhausen of all people which you'll recognise the second you clap eyes on it (and it does last mere seconds).

This format of chiller enjoyed a minor renaissance this decade, with The Monster Club and Creepshow heralding a return to the similar hits of Amicus in the sixties and seventies, as well as their imitators, and if After Midnight (original title!) was not remembered as an all-time classic, it was subject to "What was the one where...?" memory joggers. Those segments in brief, then. First, a cliché-ridden yarn you half-expect to end with a hook hanging from the driver's door handle, where a couple's car breaks down on a quiet country road and they have to seek help at a nearby mansion, which appears to be deserted and haunted. The conclusion of this one may be ludicrous, but it was entertaining with it.

Next up, probably the best instalment, an urban nightmare where a quartet of girls get lost looking for a nightclub that will admit them, start to run out of fuel and their solution winds up with them being chased by a maniac and his attack dogs. If it was a shade arbitrary, it did satisfy. Lastly, Marg Helgenberger has injured herself while skiing and returns to work at a swanky apartment block's telephone helpline, only to be plagued by calls from a stalker trying to contact a resident. This was the most televisual, you could envisage it as an eighties Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode. Not exactly demanding, then, but directors/writers Ken Wheat and Jim Wheat were no amateurs and worked up a neat enough polish - and that crazy finale, which unintentionally proved the Wheats could have gone way over the top a lot earlier and might have crafted a more memorable film. Yes, I know many have bits and pieces of this squirreled away in their memory banks, but the fact they cannot bring the title to mind is telling. Music by Marc Donahue.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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