February 10, 2020 After Midnight (Movie Review)
Every lake has its lake monster, every forest has its big hairy ape, and every relationship has its monstrous regrets. So grab your guns and prepare yourself for the complicated emotions in After Midnight, which rolls into select theaters, as well as to On Demand, on Friday, February 14th, 2020 thanks to Cranked Up Films.
Starring Jeremy Gardner (The Battery 2012, Spring 2014) and Brea Grant (Dexter series, Heroes series), After Midnight is the story of thirty-somethings Hank (Gardner) and Abby (Grant). After ten years as a couple, the reality of their situation truly bites: Abby mysteriously disappears one day, leaving behind only a note. Although their relationship was struggling, as the pair wanted very different things out of life, Hank is devastated by the loss of his true love.
Slowly losing his mind, wandering his property with a shotgun, his situation only becomes more troublesome when a creature begins to appear on his doorstep each night, trying to scratch its way inside. As flashbacks of Abby burn bright in his mind, he is tortured by both his emotions and the creature waiting outside his door.
Clocking in at 83 minutes, After Midnight was written by Gardner and co-directed along with Christian Stella (Tex Montana Will Survive! 2015). The film also features the acting talents of Henry Zebrowski (Cut Shoot Kill 2017, Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell series), Justin Benson (Dementia 2015, The Endless 2017), Ashley Song (The Oath series, Revenge short 2019), Nicola Masciotra, Keith Arbuthnot (The Cabin in the Woods 2011, Child’s Play 2019), and Toby the kitten.
After Midnight easily defies genre, working a tale of fairly common relationship struggles into the shape of a creature feature, all while injecting enough humor to show that its creators in no way take themselves too seriously. In this, viewers can expect a story that pulls from Drama, Comedy, Sci-Fi, and Horror to build a unique experience that focuses on its characters, not bloodshed, and ultimately goes out with a bang.
The film manages to do all of this with ease thanks to some amazing cinematography from Co-Director Stella, with a focus on muted, dull colors that fit the film’s subdued mood. Great transitions between scenes show the care that was taken in crafting the movie, while a wonderful Indie Rock soundtrack—featuring The Parlor and The Hummingbirds—only heightens the film-going experience. Toss in a truly fun and perfectly-timed cover of Lisa Loeb’s hit “Stay,” and you have a story that was created with artful passion on all levels of its production.
This, of course, includes its phenomenal cast. In the role of Wade, Zebrowski manages to inject plenty of humor into his delivery, including perhaps the most pivotal piece of information necessary to the story’s Horror/Sci-Fi arc. Zebrowski takes a scene that, in any other film, should have been overloaded with tension, and turns it into a comedic ramble that shows the true (redneck) insanity of his character. Though Grant’s Abby is never given much by way of comedic material, she delivers a strong performance as a frustrated woman who is torn between the man she loves and searching for something more. In this, she holds down much of the Drama arc to the tale, perfectly relaying her confused emotions and the gravity of her situation.
Somewhere in the middle sits Gardner’s Hank. As the centerpiece of this story, he provides a powerful performance as the man who refuses to leave the town where he was born, to sell the disheveled old home that he has inherited, and to step outside his comfort zone. As writer, co-director, and lead actor, it might initially be easy to write off Gardner has having been biased in casting himself in this pivotal role, but the results speak for themselves: he’s a natural. It’s easy to see that there’s some part of Gardner in Hank: he looks the part, and he emanates the conflicted attitude and heady emotions of a man who is stuck in a rut in his small town, only able to find clarity once the woman he loves is gone.
After ten years and no ring, it’s easy for any woman to wonder if she’s little more than another trophy in her boyfriend’s case. Together, Gardner, Grant, and the entire cast relay a story with multiple levels of love, loss, and howls in the night. A thoughtful film, After Midnight takes the time to craft its every detail to provide viewers with the utmost experience.
A reminder that sometimes we don’t truly know what we have until it’s gone, the film is light-hearted in the most passionate way. Couple all of this with a phenomenal cast, and quite possibly the best ending that you will see in a film in 2020, and you have a must-see offering. Wholly agreeing that the reality of relationships bites, Cryptic Rock give After Midnight 4.5 of 5 stars.