For the most part, video stores are dead, save for a handful around the world (read Kate Hagen’s excellent and extensive piece for an idea). Luckily, I work at Best Video, one of the last remaining vestiges to the golden days of renting, where streaming meant perusing shelves in hope of finding the last copy of whatever your parents wouldn’t let you catch in theaters. Each and every day I stock the same old shelves so those out there looking to romanticize renting can do so, often finding myself absently surfing the horror section; a 1,000 film wall that hides some of the genres greatest (and worst) contributions.
So I decided to take on the task, a journey if you will, of combing through every single title within the horror genre at work, A to Z. This is that journey, and as the saying goes, a journey of a thousand films begins with a single scream…
Oh, and follow #AtoZhorror on Instagram and Twitter @reelbrew for every terrifying pit-stop! Enjoy!
A: After Midnight (2006), directed by Christoper Abram & Michael W. Brown
No One is Safe.
There isn’t the saying – though there should be – that sometimes there are just too many genres in the kitchen. Which happens to be the case with After Sundown, an ambitious yet dusty genre fare that finds the Old West meeting the New West, which happens to be populated with vampires and zombies. More specifically, corpses resurrected as zombies through vampire blood. It isn’t overly complicated, it’s just overly imagined, thinly scripted and excessively worked, with one too many hands behind the camera.
Told as an overlapping narrative, After Sundown opens with a shootout between a town of cowboys and a lumbering vampire – think Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Roland the Gunslinger – while a pregnant vampire (we can only assume) is staked before giving birth. We are then taken to what appears to be a present day excavation site. Here, the remains of the pregnant woman are found, leading to her resurrection and the revival of her lover, our aforementioned lumbering vampire. Soon, those killed begin coming back from the dead as flesh hungry zombies, and its up to the excavation team and two sheriffs to bury the Old West.
Director Christopher Abrams (who stars with co-director Michael W. Brown) not only wrote but edits with David Pinkston, who also acts as principle cinematographer. Even the score is handled by two composers, Steven Barnett and Timothy Edward Smith, who mix haunting Are You Afraid of the Dark? vibes with strings that mirror the Resident Evil games (they even use similar zombie groans). It’s a determined and aspiring group, with every bit of it showing, yet like its multiple genres, it’s all a bit clashing.
Once the smoke from the opening shootout clears, it’s evident that Abram’s and Brown’s film would have been better left in the Wild West, mostly because nothing is established there. Not an ounce of blood spilled could connect the love between its two vampires, which remains as lifeless as the zombies that shamble through the films undisclosed town. This is because there is no humanity between the two, or any character for that matter. Everyone feels as disassociated with one another as the genres at play, which might work if left in the hands of one director and writer.
Which isn’t to say that the filmmakers effort don’t flow forth like the overly thick blood that stains the chins of its zompires (it really could be an interesting hybrid). It’s undeniably clear that these are people who adore the ilk of its genres, who appreciate the grotesque imagery of its creatures as well as the caliber of its rifle. And like politician Bill Bradley says, “Ambition is the path to success!” Unfortunately, it isn’t the only path, which is never quite clear for such a film with so much going on.
As the zombie outbreak continues, we’re taken back to the Old West through a diary, where little character development is made and even less rhyme and reason for such an epidemic – we don’t need one, but curious minds might want to know. Between a stockpile of ammunition and the smokescreen it creates, it becomes clear that After Sundown is a film that desperately wants to fire on all cylinders. Unfortunately, it only knows how to posture itself as its respective genres, shooting more blanks than it knows what to do with.
Add After Sundown to your collection!