Sunday, August 5, 2012

The psychology of Netflix surprises

You have to take chances in life. Sometimes you fall flat on your face and sometimes you reach new heights of wonder. And then sometimes, you simply have a fun 90 minutes watching a twenty-year-old movie you'd never seen.

Scrolling through Netflix last night, I came upon a film called After Midnight. The description was so-so '80s slasher fare, but Marg Helgenberger was in it and I dig CSI. So I watched the movie.

After Midnight turned out to be an anthology flick featuring the new professor of a class called "The psychology of fear." Prof. Edward Derek (Ramy Zada) wants to show his students that they CAN be scared, that they aren't as jaded to fear as they like to think. He does and then gets told to bring it down a notch. Later, a few students, including Allison who has had a bad feeling about this the entire movie, join the Prof at his home and share scary stories. The stories are typical urban legend fare and are not spectacular but aren't bad, either. There is a certain zeal in the tales that can be found in the best of "Tales From the Crypt" and is missing from far too many horror movies. Helgenberger is featured in the third non-linking story as an all night operator for a messaging service. (Remember, After Midnight came out in 1989. Not everyone in the world had a home answering machine and portable phones required briefcase-sized batteries.) Helgenberger sells distress and strength better than many actresses getting bigger roles than she's ever had.

The linking story involving the college students wraps everything together with a well-planned but obvious action. There is a twist which I will reveal below but only because the movie is almost as old as my little brother.


OK, I admit, I had a feeling this would happen but than didn't lessen my anger when it did. Allison's perpetual bad feeling, deja vu, and minor psychic abilities during the film are accounted fro because she was dreaming the whole thing. The movie ends right where it began-- first day of class, new professors, Allison slept poorly, and has a bad feeling about this. An otherwise above average anthology is brought down in one fell swoop by a cheap explanation. Oh, well.

THREAT LEVEL: YELLLOW. No rush. It's been around this long, so if you haven't seen it, you won't miss it. But if you do have 90 minutes to spare, there are worse movies you could watch.

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