MAINSTREAM FILMS

AFTER MIDNIGHT

After-Midnight
When an exotic dancer is murdered at a seedy strip club, her sister goes undercover to find the killer. While working at the club, she quickly realizes that everyone is a suspect and that other dancers are being targeted. She must work fast to find the killer to seek her revenge before she becomes the next target.

You’ll be forgiven for looking at this film and assuming it’s a softcore movie (as I did). It is directed by Fred Olen Ray (who co-wrote it with Andy Helm) who has directed many softcore films, several of which I’ve reviewed here, and features appearances by actresses Christine Nguyen, Erika Jordan, and Cindy Lucas who have been stables of the softcore genre in recent years. Add that to the fact that the premise revolves around strippers and, well, it’s easy to jump to that conclusion. But this is actually more like a psychological thriller/slasher film. Several of the actresses get topless, but not fully nude, and there are no love-scenes. But don’t let that stop you from checking it out.

Despite the prominent placement of Richard Grieco and Tawny Kitaen on the film poster, they both have small supporting roles, and the real star of the film is Catherine Annette who plays Constance, a news anchor for a local television station. Jeneta St. Clair plays Constance’s sister Annie, who works as a stripper, under the name Duffy, at a club called the Candy Cat. Kitaen plays Rikki, the club owner. Early in the film we’re at the club, and Rikki hears Annie argue with someone (but we don’t see who), and then as Annie is leaving that night she is shot to death by an unseen assailant. Late at the station, Constance is on the air reading a live report about the stripper being killed and is shocked when she realizes that the stripper was her sister.

The police declare Annie’s murder to be the result of a random robbery gone wrong. But Constance keeps having recurring nightmares and visions of Annie looking at her and talking to her, telling her to find her murderer, so Constance takes some time off from her job and decided to go undercover at the Crazy Cat to investigate on her own. She puts on a blonde wig, and applies for a job as a stripper and is hired by Rikki. When asks what stage-name she wants to use, Constance picks the name Annie. And that’s the main plot of the rest of the film, Constance working at the club and trying to get to know the other strippers and regular customers to see what they knew about her sister, while she continues to have recurring visions of Annie. Another subplot is introduced as we learn that Constance has another sister named Julie (played by Rya Meyers) who is catatonic in a hospital ever since she, Constance, and Julie were in a car accident which is implied to have been the fault of Annie’s drunk driving. Constance occasionally visits her and tries to talk to her but Julie remains silent and just stares into space.

Grieco plays a therapist whom Constance has been seeing since the accident and he becomes even more concerned about her when he sees her reaction to Annie’s death. Tim Abell (who also has previous experience in softcore films) plays Constance’s TV producer John, who is interested in her as more than just coworkers and friends (they do sleep together in the film, although the sex happens off screen). Dylan Vox plays Pax, who works as a bartender as Crazy Cat. Bobby Quinn Rice and Don Scribner play a couple of regular customers at the bar, both of whom may have intimately familiar with Annie.

Erika Jordan plays Tina, Christine Nguyen plays Zoey, Cindy Lucas is Britney, Madison Ivy plays Sasha, and Tiffany Tynes plays Misty, the other strippers who work at the club. Zoey and Britney are both nice and friendly towards Constance, but Tina is automatically a bitch to her and everyone else. Earlier we saw her threaten Annie for supposedly stealing her regular customers, and then she warns Constance not to do the same. Then when Misty is introduced she is mean too, as she’s dating Pax and gets jealous because she sees Pax flirting with Constance. Each of these ladies get a chance to show off their stripping skills where, as I said, they get topless. Nguyen, Ivy (who doesn’t have any actual lines in the film) and Tynes each perform once, while Jordan and Lucas each perform twice. St. Claire also performs once, she’s stripping during the opening credits, before she’s killed. And Catherine Annette also gets in one scene stripping. All of the ladies do a great job, but I have to say that Erika Jordan (who, for some reason, I noticed is credited as “Yasmin Yeganeh”) is definitely the best. She works the stage like a natural (which I guess shouldn’t be a surprise, as I’ve also seen her do stripping in Strippers From Another World), and also does well in her dramatic scenes, playing the violent bitch who hates everyone.

But the most credit for this film has to go to Catherine Annette, as the story pretty much rests on her shoulders. She’s a relatively new actress and this looks like it may be her first major starring role, but she handles herself like a veteran, especially in the scenes where Constance is freaking out over her visions of Annie. There is a pretty big twist at the end, when the killer is a revealed. I won’t spoil it but I didn’t see it coming, although you will be able to look back and see all the clues that lead up to it, so it feels like a natural development.

The film probably could have been a little better if it went further in either direction. If it had been a softcore film, complete with multiple sex scenes, it would have been awesome, especially with this cast of actresses. Or if it had just been a straight horror film, with blood and guts and all that (most of the killing in this film happens off-camera), it could have been more suspenseful and frightening. As it stands it sort of straddles the middle, but it’s a good film for what it is. I can give it a Chacebook rating of FOUR STARS

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