After Midnight (2019)
after midnight | jeremy gardner | christian stella | brea grant | justin benson | creature | monster | drama | sci-fi | sci fi | ashley song | nicola masciotra | keith arbuthnot | henry zebrowski | united states
Film: After Midnight
Director: Jeremy Gardner and Christian Stella
Writer: Jeremy Gardner
Starring: Jeremy Gardner, Brea Grant and Justin Benson
This was a movie I kept hearing things about and I was pretty excited to check it out. I was made even better that the Gateway Film Center was showing the movie so I could see it on the big screen. I’ve seen some of these actors work in similar size films so that also helped with my expectations. The synopsis here is when his long suffering girlfriend disappears suddenly, leaving a cryptic note as her only explanation, Hank’s (Jeremy Gardner) comfortable life and his sanity begin to crack.
This movie doesn’t waste anytime getting us into it. We see Hank as something is attacking his front door. He shoots a hole in it with a shotgun. Through information that we’re given, this has happened every night since Abby (Brea Grant) left. Trying to defend his property, he is sinking into madness from the lack of sleep and worry of what happened to her.
As some background information, Hank and Abby run a bar in town. She is the sister of the local sheriff, played by Justin Benson. His good friend is also a local at his bar, Wade (Henry Zebrowski) who I’m not going to lie is hilarious. Being that this is a small town, Hank is trying to hide that Abby left, but as I know having grown up in one, it isn’t always that easy.
The question then becomes, is this monster that is bothering Hank real? Or is he trying to deal with his grief by having something that he can blame for his descent into madness. Or could Abby herself be the creature that is tormenting him at night. Plus the more we see about their relationship, things aren’t always necessarily how they seem.
Now as I tend to do, especially with newer films that is independent like this. I wanted to go a bit brief on the recap, as to not spoil, but also this film doesn’t have the deepest story. I actually think a synopsis with a couple of sentences really tells what this movie is about. This isn’t really driven by the story, but more figuring out what is really tormenting Hank.
If I can give this movie any kind of credit, it is the development of these characters. Through seeing what is happening with Hank as well as the flashbacks, I know so much about both of these characters without necessarily being told. It is through body language, facial reactions and just things that are being said. Hank is a good old boy. He grew up in this town, living in the family house and never really seemed to have left. Abby went away to Miami for school and never intended to move back. She got a taste of culture and doesn’t want to give it up, but fell for Hank when she came home for a summer. There was also a monologue I heard people talking about that after the movie ended, I told my girlfriend hit me harder than it should have. Not necessarily in the same way that it hit Abby, but we’re similar in age and I’ve been through a similar crisis.
Apart from that, I liked Benson as Abby’s brother. He is the voice of reason here and his arguments to Hank are quite logical. There can’t be a monster, but it doesn’t change the fact that we’re seeing him deal with something every night. What makes it better though, for the set up of this movie is he’s the only one seeing it so it makes you question, is it real or not. Mad props to Zebrowski as well as he had me cracking up when he’s on screen.
Not all of this is great though. I thought the first half of this movie is great. We’re seeing Hank as he descends into madness over Abby leaving and splicing in flashbacks of them being together. These fill-ins really did shift my perception of their relationships. The movie does bog itself down though in the second half. It is interesting that at the end of this movie, I was on cloud 9 while my girlfriend wasn’t. We both slept on it and then talked the following morning. Her perception of it came up while mine went down, but I think we met on common ground for sure. I just think this movie didn’t know what it wanted to do and there was a few different ways to take it, but they just didn’t do the ones to really make it work. I will say there’s a jump-scare in this movie that got me so bad, I had chest pains until I went to bed. I also thought the ending was good where it gets left.
As for the effects, we do get some glimpses of the creature in this movie. I’m not saying if it is real or not, but we get to see it. I was quite impressed that they really only give you quick looks of it so you can’t really critique it. I think that’s a strategic move, but they also did it practically which really made me smile to be honest. The cinematography gets credit here as well for being hiding this as well as just in general for this movie. I stated above that they linger on people to really make sure we understand things through non-verbal communication. If I had any issues, there’s a scene at the start of the 3rd act that makes sense and was really good, but I don’t think will hold up with a second viewing.
The last thing to go over would be the soundtrack. What I really liked here is that there are a few times that it is actually ambient music. The film is strategic in that it comes to end naturally or someone stops it. I really liked that as it was memorable for someone who doesn’t always notice. It necessarily isn’t a soundtrack I will revisit when I’m not watching the movie outside of one song, but it left its mark on me.
Now with that said, I really liked this movie as I left the theater and the more on sat on it, the lower my rating has come for it. That’s not to say it is bad, as that’s not the case. I think that they really introduce some deep and complex characters that are grounded in reality. Heck, I know characters that are similar to this in my friend’s group. I like that this movie is present as could this be real or an allegory. The issue then becomes that I don’t like how they explained things. One of my favorite scenes I’m not entirely sure if it will hold up with a second viewing. The soundtrack fit and I like what they did with it. I thought what we could see of the monster was good and the cinematography is used strategically. With that said, after this first viewing my rating here would be above average and I think this will be one that I revisit again before the year ends to really see how I feel.
My Rating: 7.5 out of 10
I felt that I needed to do a little spoiler section here to flesh out my issues with the story and where it went. It is established that this monster plagues Hank after Abby leaves. My thought is then that she is the monster that is bothering him. Heck, he even tells her that he thought this same thing. The curve ball that is she comes back. Her infamous monologue is great, except I don’t know if it will hold up with a second viewing as it does kind of bog the movie down.
What is interesting is that first night she is back, the monster doesn’t attack so I’m still on that path that she’s the monster. The major spoiler here is that Hank realizes he needs to change to be with Abby so he sings her a song and tells her that he wants to go with her and experience the world. The monster then attacks him in front of a group of friends on her birthday night. It then got me thinking, Hank does mention that this house kills his family. That could be taken as alcoholism or just small town life. It should be built up that this monster kills his family if they weren’t going to have Abby be the creature. Or make it just not be real and him just descending into madness over possible losing the love of his life or needing something to hunt. I think by ending it as they do, it doesn’t fit to what they’re been working toward for me.
I’d be curious as to your thoughts on what I’m proposing or what you think this ending is signifying.