There is something utterly gripping about isolation horror. Those features that take their main character and place them in a solitary, or mostly solitary, location and then allow us to get to know them intimately while much conflict is sent their way. After Midnight fits very nicely into that isolation horror wheelhouse while simultaneously opening the floodgates on something warm, relatable and absorbing.
Writer-Director Jeremy Gardner, (The Battery) returns with a deconstruction of the most significant parts of a relationship with an almost Before Sunset trilogy vibe, rooted in horror sensibilities.
Speaking specifically to its approach to horror, there are a few scenes that are wildly hair-raising. Keeping the camera ever moving while focusing on the creature elements makes your heart pound between the moments of being heartfelt. Co-director, Christian Stella also handles the cinematography in After Midnight and really works some innocuous bits of sorcery in that department when it comes to conveying both the visceral and stillness. Those moments are furthered by well-placed needle drops that audibly spell out intent in their respectable scenes.
After Midnight (previously titled, Something Else) circles around Hank (Jeremy Gardner) following a separation from his girlfriend Abby (Brea Grant), who left a note and vanished from Hanks life. While attempting to cope by way of drinking copious amounts of alcohol, Hank begins to get nightly visitations from what he believes is a full fledged monster. As he attempts to trap and kill the monster, and his sanity begins to dissolve, he starts to look to his past with Abby to figure out where things went wrong in order to try to save any love the two have left.
I love a good love story and I love a good monster movie. So, guess what? This movie really had me. Similar to 2014’s Spring, this film isn’t afraid to subvert genre bending alchemy out of romance and the creature faire. Not surprising that Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, the team behind Spring and The Endless are both onboard as producers on this one.
Gardner effectively makes awkward timing work from his writing to the characters he plays there is something uniquely outside by way of cadence and something that makes his films easy to identify. Gardner continues his particular brand of natural charm that instills in the audience a very direct requirement of wanting to grab a beer and to chat with the dude.
The writing here is fantastic especially when it comes to scenes of dialogue that aren’t afraid to hold the camera on its subjects, isn’t afraid to let its character’s blossom and isn’t afraid of the romantic substance to pause the horror. It’s a film that would have worked without the otherworldly bits… but is ultimately made completely exceptional by their addition.
After Midnight is Charles Bukowski by way of a harrowing creature feature, all while maintaining a sweet streak. Fans of The Battery will be please to see Gardner continuing his richly innovative approach to indie film, and will be pleasantly surprised with the big heart and connective tissue that ties this films genres and characters together.