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Melissa Starker, Creative Content & PR Manager
Apr 27, 2022
I was excited to hear the Wex would be presenting Night’s End as part of the first Cinema Columbus festival. Director Jennifer Reeder is a longtime friend and collaborator of the center. I’ve been a fan of her beautifully crafted films for years, and her ability to build a mood is practically tailor-made for horror. Then I found out the film is about a content creator working from home. As someone who creates content about the Wex for this blog and who’s continued to work primarily remotely, I thought it could be fun to write about the film from the perspective of shared professions.
As I watched, however, I remembered that it’s never a good idea to focus on face value in Reeder’s work. While Night’s End does center a content creator—and it goes to extremes for dramatic effect—the film reflects more broadly something in which so many of us have become “experts” over the past couple of years: Trying to maintain human connection and hold onto purpose, along with a sense of “normal,” in the middle of a situation that is anything but.
Ken (Geno Walker), the protagonist, is an undiagnosed agoraphobe who lost his family and his job to a drinking problem. Living alone in a new apartment when we first meet him, he’s developed an odd ritual of mixing Pepto Bismol into his morning coffee, checking the security of the newspapers taped over his windows, and making halfhearted stabs at becoming a YouTube star by posting videos full of advice on topics for which he seems to have little expertise, or interest. His efforts read like a more elaborate way of inserting yourself into a comment-heavy social exchange just to see if you can get anyone to listen and acknowledge.
But as his sympathetic friend Terry (Felonius Munk) tells him, in one of the videos, an object seems to fall of its own volition off a shelf in the background. Others notice, too. Following this incident and more that suggest there’s another presence in the apartment, Ken gets the attention he craves—from viewers, from members of the online occult community, and even from his still-friendly ex-wife (Kate Arrington) and her new husband (Michael Shannon, who’s almost worth the price of admission alone).
What transpires from there touches on various issues that could easily strike a chord with people who’ve been able to work from home, and for those who play in the social realm. There are examples of the unhealthy personal habits that can develop behind closed doors, moments to consider the inherently eerie look of ring lighting on video calls, and a subplot that illustrates how an untrustworthy source can suck people in, simply with projections of confidence and knowledge.
None of us will see our situation conclude in the same way that Ken does (at least, I certainly hope not). But many of us will see a glimmer of the familiar in his story. And with this festival screening, we have an opportunity to return to a comforting part of the old “normal”: to unite in person with fellow film lovers for a shared emotional experience. To laugh or gasp as part of a supportive collective. Reeder is also coming back to her hometown of Columbus to have a fun, behind-the-scenes chat about the film with her longtime editor (and former Film/Video Studio staffer) Mike Olenick. I hope you’ll take the opportunity to step away from your individual devices and gather with us in front of one big screen.