Filmmaker Walker Whited’s freshman feature marks another invitation to showcase acting talent with stunt experience to boot. This latest endeavor, By Night’s End, comes by way of Michelle Rose, who’s been acting for about as long as she’s been a professional stunt performer (i.e. Marvel’s The Avengers: Infinity War/Endgame, Stuber).
Rose stars from a script by Whited, alongside actor Kurt Yue for a story set in a suburban home, introducing Mark (Yue), and ex-soldier Heather (Rose), married for several years and now struggling with their own job situations, as they prepare for the holidays long since tragedy struck their once happy marriage. One quiet evening when an intruder enters their home, Heather, patrolling outside, fires several strategic blind shots before confronting the wounded, would-be robber who offers a large sum of money in exchange for his life.
Forced to otherwise kill the intruder when he pulls a gun out, Heather and Mark come to a head as they wrestle with the idea of possibly finding money hidden somewhere in the home while plotting their way around potential welfare checks by the police. Little do they know they’ll have at least one more corpse on their hands while a mysterious figure named Moody (Michael Aaron Milligan) descends upon the home with two henchmen to menace the beleagured couple, until he retrieves what he claims is his.
There’s a whole cloud of mystery that surrounds the supposed “maybe-money” in By Night’s End. Treading on sensitive ground and deliberate through spates of emotional upheaval, grief and fear, Heather and Mark are forced to cope with hiding bodies and looking painfully conspicuous doing it, as they rush to find whatever it is the intial intruder was looking for themselves. Things get even more intense knowing that letting too much time pass will eventually incriminate them even on the grounds of self-defense.
As the stakes raise for Heather and Mark with the lost McGuffin nowhere to be immediately found, it all becomes too painfully clear who the jerk in this marriage is, and in a film like this, it probably wouldn’t be difficult to discern which character might die, deservedly or not. Nontheless, it’s amply easy to get behind our characters in their struggle to survive, and even easier to root for the pugilistically-inclined Heather, whose particular set of skills is put to the test quite a few times in this film.
A small scale independent production with likely little room for embellishments, Whited manages to craft a taut, formidable siege drama that holds its own. Yue carries the film much more dramatically, and enough that it welcomes Rose in her latest turn for the screen. Milligan makes fine work of the role of Moody, whose own characterization smartly hints at a conspiracy that could involve more players than the movie itself lets on.
The ending leaves a little bit more in the air in that regard, paying off handsomely with some cool cinematography by Philip Wages, and scoring by Tyler Kitchens. It’s not yet known if By Night’s End will get a continuation, though as a standalone thriller worth gazing at for its eighty two-minute runtime, Whited’s directing debut promises a brutally-toned and entertaining crime drama with a few surprises up its sleeve, a searing message, and a chilling finish that won’t leave you empty-handed.
DarkCoast will release BY NIGHT’S END onto various digital platforms October 6, 2020 (Amazon, iTunes, DirecTV, FlixFling, Google Play, Vudu and AT&T).