Fantastic Fest 2019: After Midnight
Relationships are never a walk in the park. They have their ups and downs and moments in question. But what happens when horror elements are thrown into the mix? Well, in Jeremy Gardner’s (The Battery) newest film After Midnight (originally titled Something Else), in which he writes, co-directs and stars, we find out what happens when a relationship hits a roadblock and monsters are at bay.
Bar owner Hank (Gardner) and wine sommelier Abby (Brea Grant) have been in a relationship for over 10 years now. They reside in a large suburban home passed down through Hank’s family in a small town. The couple have a close set of friends and everything seems great. One day, Abby just up and leaves without a goodbye and only a note left behind. Hank has no idea where Abby’s going nor why she left, even though he has his suspicions. After Abby disappears, strange things begin happening at night. Hank’s home is attacked by some kind of monster with an ear piercing screech like the aliens in Attack the Block. Many question Hank’s sanity, including resident friend/police officer Shane (Justin Benson, The Endless). Is this Hank’s sanity going haywire creating this monster, or is there really an entity ravaging his property? Switches flip once Abby randomly returns home, as does the mood of their relationship.
When a film jumps from past to present, you sometimes lose a level of emotion and get taken away from the film. It turns into a puzzle where sometimes you miss a piece, throwing the whole movie off whack. However, Gardner does a wonderful job balancing the two timelines and showing how they complement to each other. Whether it’s through a song, an event, or an object, we’re transitioned from before Abby left to present day so delicately that it successfully binds the film together making it easy to follow and flow rewardingly.
Gardner starts out with your conventional horror film filled with a few wild jump scares and high tension, but once Abby returns home, the film turns from horror to more drama when the couple's relationship is in question. There is a long take of a talk between the two leads that is framed so personally and perfectly that their conversation feels like you’re almost in the room with them, feeling the emotions they’re emitting. Relationships go through these scenarios all the time and the realistic feel makes for one heartbreaking scene. He does this throughout the whole film, but that scene is one of the strongest.
Visually, After Midnight is beautiful. The way it’s lit forms the whole mood of a scene. During the sequences set in the past, everything is bright and colorful, showing how happy the couple is/was. Once we’re catapulted to the present, it’s dark and you can feel the depression and lack of sanity set in from Hank when Abby isn’t around. When Abby returns, she has this mystical glow around her, illustrating that she is what makes Hank happy, she’s his happy place. I can’t say more about how much I loved how visually stunning After Midnight is. On top of that, it includes a bop of a soundtrack with an on screen performance by The Hummingbirds. I instantly downloaded their song ‘13 Days’ once the end credits rolled.
After Midnight feels like two separate films in one when it comes to genre balance and I would’ve liked to have seen more horror elements in the second half, but I couldn’t keep my eyes away. I mean, how many movies are you going to get where you can watch Justin Benson karaoke to The Animal’s ‘House of the Rising Sun’ at a party? Let’s have karaoke at every party! As a whole, Gardner brings to play heartbreaking reality with the unknown in the form of monsters. It's gritty, terrifying, and soul crushing in all the good ways. The films ties itself up in a jaw-dropping way that’s guaranteed to make everyone who sees this film gasp. You won’t want to miss this. Jeremy Gardner has delivered in the past, and After Midnight is no different.