2/08/2021

After Midnight (2019) (Review)

Director: Jeremy Gardner, Christian Sella
Writer: Jeremy Gardner
Cast: Jeremy Gardner, Brea Grant, Henry Zebrowski, Justin Benson, Ashley Song, Nicola Masciotra 
Year: 2019
Min: 83

Hank (co-director and writer Jeremy Gardner) and his pretty girlfriend Abby (Brea Grant) seem to have a happy, ten year relationship. And, while all seems great, something is obviously wrong. As we learn that she goes away, leaving him behind with a only a simple, handwritten letter. Every single night, from that one on, Hank gets terrorized by a monster that scratches up the door and seemingly munches down on their kitty. He tries to kill it, or at least keep it at bay each and every time. No one in town believes him, of course, including Abby's brother, Shane (Justin Benson) who is a cop. During all of this, Hank is shattered and heartbroken, as he longs for Abby's return. 

After Midnight is a 2019 drama/ romantic/ horror film written by lead star Jeremy Gardner, who co-directs with Christian Sella (who also handled the cinematography). This decidedly indie mix of genres aims to be more than just monster movie. It has gotten mostly strong reactions from critics but audiences seem much more split. And, to be honest, after seeing this flick, I can fully understand. 

From a purely aesthetic view point, this is a gorgeous looking movie. There is some excellent camerawork that takes full advantage of the widescreen aspect ratio. The long shots, of which there are quite a few, are beautiful. Also worthy of praise is the excellent acting, especially that of genre favorite Brea (Rob Zombie's Halloween II, Beyond the Gates) Grant. Her character of Abby, is to me, far more relatable than Hank's is. In part, I think, because I know so many people like Abby. Still, Gardner does a good job as Hank, especially when taken into account that he co-directed the film. The thing is I never really care for him or any anything that happens to him. 

That not caring is the perfect way to describe a good chunk of my feelings watching this film. As it advanced, I went from feeling apathetic to being frustrated by the lack of anything even remotely engaging occurring. To the point that when the climax came, I didn't have the filmmakers desired reaction and simply laughed at it. Also, what was going to happen a mile a fucking way. And, then there is the anti-climatic ending which further sinks the movie down. 

Honestly, it is more of an allegory for relationships, with the horror aspect being an after thought. But, it never managed to fully engage my interest, even with a few good moments here and there. Still, supposedly suspenseful scenes lack any real tension or fear. Yet, even taken as purely a romantic movie it still fails at grabbing me on any emotional level.

There is an over use of bad music, including, but not limited to, some truly godawful country music. Now, I realize that the soundtrack fits this particular story. But, when the proceedings are this unexciting, it only helps to make this that much more arduous to endure. There is an incredibly corny moment where Hank does karaoke to Lisa Loeb's "Stay", which only succeeded in making me long for her music video. 

After Midnight is quiet frankly a slog to get through. That being said the acting is excellent, especially from both leads, including a particularly wonderful Grant. Yet, the movie never really comes alive. It is far more of a study on relationships, especially damaged ones, than the actually horror. But, it ultimately succeeds at neither, as it is far too boring to ever hold ones interest. This despite the fact, that visually, it is a stunning movie to look, thanks to gorgeous cinematography and style. None of this is helped by the truthfully anti-climatic finale and ending that further buries the movie and elicit none of the feelings the filmmakers wanted to. Regardless, you can catch it on Shudder starting this Thursday, February 11, 2021, just in time for Valentine's Day.



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