AFTER MIDNIGHT (2020)
Rated TV-MA | Color | 83 minutes
Directed by Jeremy Gardner and Christian Stella
Also Known As: Something Else
Purchase it: Amazon.com (Blu-ray) | Amazon.com (Digital)
Review originally posted to Patreon on March 9th, 2020.
WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS!
About five years ago I received a Blu-ray copy of a film called THE BATTERY from Scream Factory for reviewing purposes – it was my first experience watching something created by Jeremy Gardner. Having already watched and reviewed numerous low-budget post-apocalyptic zombie flicks, I was shocked to find that this film had substance! And heart! Needless to say, I was pretty impressed with THE BATTERY, and gave the film (and its Blu-ray release) a fairly positive review! So when I found out that Jeremy made a low budget creature feature, I just had to check it out!
AFTER MIDNIGHT (formerly SOMETHING ELSE) was written and co-directed (and edited) by Gardner, who also stars in the lead role of Hank. When we first meet him, he’s dozing on a couch (that is barricading his front doors) with a shotgun across his lap. Apparently every night since his girlfriend Abby (Brea Grant) vanished, some mysterious creature continues to claw at the door to come in. Hints are dropped early on in the film that the nightly visitor has something to do with Abby’s disappearance, but as the film chugs along we learn that apparently isn’t so.
Several weeks earlier, Abby up and left for a class reunion in Miami, and then just stayed to take a break from her long-term relationship and enjoy the culture, night life, and cuisine in the big city. The only problem is, she never told Hank… or answered his increasingly frantic phone calls. This is kind of shocking because we are bombarded with Hank’s happy memories of the love they shared, which initially made me think that the creature haunting him either killed Abby or was Abby. (Spoiler: I was wrong on both counts.)
So why the cold shoulder from Hank’s lady friend? Well it seems that their relationship is on the rocks because they both wanted different things: Abby yearns to leave their podunk town behind to get married and start a family – Hank on the other hand is obviously in no rush to have children, and was pretty content with his lot in life. (Ack! I feel personally attacked by this movie!)
Essentially what we have here is a failure to communicate, which is what Hank and Abby finally start doing when she returns. But it seems like it may be too little too late. They’ve both hurt each other: Hank by dismissing Abby’s emotional needs – Abby by leaving Hank alone to wonder where she is and if she’s okay. (She also left him to run their business by himself on top of battling an unwelcome nighttime visitor that no one believes exists.) Yes it truly does seem that this once idyllic love may be over.
The final act of the film wraps things up rather quickly, and takes place at the forever fixer-upper that Hank and Abby call home. A small group of friends arrive to celebrate Abby’s birthday, and engage in some drunken karaoke, until Abby’s brother (the local cop) addresses the “elephant in the room:” Hank’s monster. Hank surprisingly stands up for himself, pours his heart out to Abby, and then ends up going mano y mano with the film’s mystery creature in front of Abby and his dinner guests, before finally doing the unthinkable.
AFTER MIDNIGHT takes a bit too long to get going, and focuses the vast majority of its running time on Hank and Abby’s crumbling relationship. The film is shot and edited well, and features several good performances, but the plot does meander a bit in the first half. Thankfully things do start to move along nicely throughout the remainder of the film, right up to Hank’s (anti)climactic duel with his nocturnal tormentor. Speaking of which… I was quite disappointed that the much-touted monster had so little screen time and so little bearing on the story – it almost feels tacked on.
In fact, all these days later and I still haven’t come up with a satisfactory reason of why the creature was even included. Is it a cryptid or an alien that is drawn to Hank’s negative emotions? Is it a physical manifestation of the growing toxicity in his relationship with Abby? Does it even symbolize anything?! I have no idea! All I do know is that it has a really cool design, and severely underutilized! (How can you emblazon the creature on the movie poster, but only show it on the screen for like, sixty seconds?! Gah!)
AFTER MIDNIGHT is a well-made indie film that is definitely worth watching, though it kind of strings you along with the promise of monster hijinks, kind of like how Hank was likely stringing Abby along, giving her hopes of marriage and babies to keep her in his life. Wait…. did I just finally figure out the point of the creature’s existence in the film?! Is it merely there to make us feel like Abby?!
My misgivings about its distinct lack of monster aside, AFTER MIDNIGHT is a solid effort from Jeremy Gardner that shows us what’s it like in a relationship when the “honeymoon is over.” Though I didn’t like it nearly as much as THE BATTERY, this film managed to keep my interest and therefore gets my recommendation, and a rating of: