AFTER MIDNIGHT (2019)
Review by Darren Gaskell
Hank (Jeremy Gardiner) owns a bar in a small town and is in a loving relationship with girl of his dreams Abby (Brea Grant). However, after ten years of unwedded bliss Abby leaves suddenly, giving no idea as to when or if she’s ever coming back. Also, Hank’s attempts to come to terms with this aren’t being helped by the fact that Abby’s departure has coincided with the arrival of a creature which shows up at the house every night, clawing at the door and trying to get in…
Okay, so how do I review After Midnight without giving anything else away other than the above? I say this because to get the most out of this movie on first watch you really need to go into it knowing as little as possible and I’d hate to spoil where the film goes after the initial set-up.
What I will say is that I went into After Midnight expecting one thing and getting something totally different, not to mention a whole lot more satisfying than my less-than-sharp imagination had crafted. It’s a tale full of heart, offbeat humour and winning performances. Oh, and there’s more than a little tension too as the stakes are raised in terms of relationship and life-threatening jeopardy.
Gardiner and Grant are excellent as the central couple and the stresses of a long-term relationship are all too relatable and sharply defined. Hank is happy with his lot and has no desire to move out of his comfort zone (both figuratively and literally), while Abby longs for something more. Can their bond survive? There’s soul searching, but not of the overwrought variety. This is naturalistic, tentative, awkward. Watch for the long take before the final act kicks in, it’s quietly mesmeric.
The supporting cast members are just as vital to the success of the story and they bring further depth to the rural setting. You feel that they all have known each other forever and their interactions are infused with that matter-of-fact shorthand used by those who hang around together on a regular basis. Their meetups have the ring of truth about them, there are no showy, exaggerated depictions of what a crazy bunch they are. There’s a lightness of touch, the dialogue is sparing and spot-on, you’ll feel you know these folks.
Henry Zebrowski, as Hank’s best friend Wade, is everything a buddy should be – sometimes amusing, sometimes downright frustrating but always there when push comes to shove. Also, I really should mention Justin Benson – yes, Resolution, Spring, The Endless, Synchronic, that Justin Benson – as the local law enforcer. He’s on rather fine form here, sympathetic to Hank’s plight to a point but also able to look at the situation through his investigative filter and wondering what the hell is really going on.
At 83 minutes, After Midnight does not outstay its welcome by a single second. It’s something of a slow burn but the steady pace and intriguing set up means you’re not quite sure where it’s going to go. It deals with potentially heavy topics in a deft, entertaining and wryly amusing manner while always keeping the threat of Hank’s nightly visitor rumbling away pleasingly in the background.
Jeremy Gardiner and Christian Stella’s bold, brilliant genre mash-up is beautifully judged, romantic, suspenseful, comedic and dramatic. It also features the very best, not to mention the most hilarious, jump scare there’s been in a movie for years and the payoff is perfect. It’s warm, funny, heart-wrenching, creepy, thrilling and I absolutely loved it. Catch it before a strange being turns up at your door…
Rating: 5 / 5