Review: ‘After Midnight’ (2020)

It isn’t often that one sits down with a monster movie that happens to also be a sweet and sorrowful examination of long-term romantic relationships. Let alone one where the presence of said monster works as a metaphor for the unhappiness that is tearing away at one on the rocks. Such a beast of anger and uncertainty lies at the center of After Midnight.

The latest film from Jeremy Gardner and Christian Stella, the team behind past gems like The Battery and Tex Montana Will Survive!, After Midnight also brings directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead in as producers and it isn’t hard to see why. While what is on display is very much a continuation of Gardner & Stella’s interests and themes, After Midnight also offers up a tale that would make for a fine double-feature with Benson & Moorhead’s Spring.

The tale is centered around smalltown couple Hank (Gardner) and Abby (Brea Grant), who are a decade into their amorous relationship and things aren’t going well. In short, Abby has left and Hank has no idea when or if she will return. We catch glimpses of the start of their relationship here and there, juxtaposing their early happiness against the loneliness and anger that Hank is now feeling in his empty home. He is upset, hurt, and enraged and it’s not hard to see why. It’s also not hard to see why Abby may have walked away from their life.

Gardner and Grant both do a fantastic job of relaying all facets of their characters both individually and as a couple. They are backed by an equally good small supporting cast (Including Benson as a dorky deputy), but it’s their core relationship that is the true heart of the film. They’re honestly so good that I never minded when the creature wasn’t around and that is no small feat for a monster flick.

Don’t worry, you get monster sequences. Unlike many modern indie creature feature offerings, however, the beast is here to serve both a narrative and especially a thematic purpose. It is in service of wonderfully lyrical love story, as opposed to the other way around. If you are open to a romantic drama with occasional creature effects, then I think you will find After Midnight to be a highly rewarding experience. If you are simply wanting a standard rampaging monster movie? Well, this just isn’t that kind of film.

After Midnight is an original horror drama. It is directed by Jeremy Gardner and Christian Stella, from a screenplay by Jeremy Gardner. The film is produced by Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Arvind Harinath, David Lawson Jr., Tiffany Boyle, Venu Kunnappilly, and Elsa Ramo. It stars Jeremy Gardner, Brea Grant, Justin Benson, Henry Zebrowski, Keith Arbuthnot, Nicola Masciotra, and Ashley Song.

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