After Sundown was made for twenty grand with a single Canon digital video camera – when you keep those facts in mind, you soon realize that it's a rather ambitious film, which is a testament to the work ethic of those who made it but which unfortunately isn't realized. In short, the filmmakers have bit of way more than they can chew with what is at their disposal.
The story begins back in the days of the wild west in a small frontier town where the local minister's daughter is about to bare her first child. While this sound like a joyous occasion, nothing could be further from the truth as the man who sired the baby to be was a full fledged vampire and he's shown up to claim his prodigy whether she and her family like it or not. Things don't go as planned, however, and soon enough the mother, vampire father and newborn are laying dead in the local cemetery with stakes driven through them, hopefully never to be seen or heard from again.
Fast forward to the present day and a gang of real estate developers plan to build on top of the old cemetery. Before they can do that, they've got to dig up and move whatever bodies might still be there and low and behold they soon come across the corpses of the vampire family from the first scene, all three of them almost perfectly preserved. When someone slips up and inadvertently removes the stake from the heart of the male vampire, he's resurrected and once more out to do the devil's work.
Newly reborn, he heads out into the small town intent on taking over. By infusing some of his blood with that of the locals he's able to get the bite on, he manages to turn them into zombie soldiers who do his bidding and feast on the flesh of the living. Thankfully, all is not lost for the small town as a rag tag group of survivor types decide that they're not going down without a fight. The odds are stacked against them, but if they're clever enough and tough enough they just might make it out alive and be able to lay the vampire and his undead minions to rest once and for all.
After Sundown manages to get a few things right during its running time. The sets look good, they're nice and dusty and the flashback scenes are handled fairly well. Unfortunately the zombies used in the last half of the film don't look so hot and the fact that they move as slowly as they do but still manage to catch people and eat them is a little tricky to wrap your head around if you're at all concerned with logic (though this same complaint can be levied against many zombie films). A little more back-story into why the vampire is reanimating people as zombies rather than as vampires would have been very welcome though in all fairness, the premise itself is at least one that this reviewer hasn't seen before.
The problem, ultimately, is that After Sundown reaches too far and ultimately drops the ball. Had there been a bigger budget this might have worked but as it stands now a lot of what we see on screen feels half finished and a lot of it looks cheap (because it is). If the acting had been better than average then it might have served to boost the quality of the film a bit but sadly, it's no better or worse than your average low budget horror film which really isn't saying all that much. In short, the filmmaker's show potential and are obviously an ambitious lot – they just didn't have either the means or the experience to pull it off this time.
For a shot on video low budget production the non-anamorphic 1.85.1 widescreen presentation doesn't look too bad. There's some heavy shimmering in a few scenes in places where you're used to seeing it such as on clothing textures and patterns and on the grills of cars but other than that the movie looks pretty good. Color reproduction isn't bad, skin tones look alright, and while there is some mild mpeg compression present in a few of the darker moments in the film, they're not overpowering.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is free of any hiss or distortion and for the most part, the levels are well balanced (there are a few spots where there are a few tweaks but otherwise it's all good). The score and sound effects sound fine and don't bury the performers in the mix. Optional Spanish subtitles are provided, though there are no closed captions available.
The two main extras on the release are a director's commentary track and a quick making of documentary. The commentary is fairly informative if a little self indulgent at times and it gives us a pretty good idea of what went into getting the project finished, and some details on the cast members and the location shooting. The making of documentary focuses more on the low budget aspect of the production, showing us how they pulled off a few things for little money and talking about shooting the movie with the equipment that they had at hand.
Rounding out the extra features are a handful of uninspired outtakes from the film, trailers for a few other Lion's Gate horror DVD releases, menu screens and chapter stops.
There are plenty of good low budget horror movies out there, but After Sundown unfortunately isn't one of them despite a few moments that show some promise. The technical skills are there but the content is just way too vapid to be effective. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.