After Midnight is brought to us by Jeremy Gardner (The Battery) who writes, directs and stars, and co-director Christian Stella (Tex Montana Will Survive!) – and it’s a monster movie. Sort of. And a romance movie. Kinda.
Hank (Gardner) wakes up one morning to find that his girlfriend of ten years, Abby (Brea Grant – Game Shop, Dexter) has upped and vanished, leaving behind only a somewhat cryptic note apologising for it. So far, so sucks to be you. His problems really begin when something starts trying to get into the house at night, banging and scratching and trying to force the door open.
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He tries to enlist the help of Abby’s brother, local sheriff Shane (Justin Benson – The Endless) only to find that nobody wants to believe that there’s a monster trying to get into his house. Is he going round the bend? Is he just drunk and seeing things? That’s what other people would like to believe and the film does a good job of teasing out the truth to the very end, with a reveal that puts me in mind of the infamous Samuel L Jackson hero speech from Deep Blue Sea.
But does the story work? Kiiiiiiiiiinda? Sort of? Hank himself seems a fairly relatable guy, and as the audience is with him through every encounter we assume that he’s not just seeing things, but the scepticism of those around him is certainly easy to understand. It does rather beg the question though, of why his best friend and his sort-of-brother-in-law wouldn’t just come around one day to see if he really was making things up. For them to have disbelieved him for a month without any attempt to confirm things for themselves is a bit of a stretch.
Hank’s interactions with Abby are mostly well done, with there being good chemistry between the two, though Abby comes across as being somewhat petulant and selfish later in the film when she finally explains why she left and where she’s been for a month. It seems the sort of thing you should maybe have just talked out rather than just inexplicably walking out the door with what amounts to little more than a “See ya, wouldn’t want to be ya” note.
My favourite character in this has to be Hank’s best friend Wade aka Bubba. He’s just a good ole downhome boy and he’s a pleasure to watch on screen with his endless rabbiting on and his ability to consume copious amounts of dubious alcohol. The only character that didn’t feel entirely convincing was Shane, which is a shame as Benson is great in The Endless. Somehow here something about the character doesn’t entirely click, at least it didn’t for me.
The film also ends somewhat abruptly and while the end scene is both satisfying and quirky it leaves plenty of questions unanswered. So if you’re looking for, as Homer Simpson once said, everything wrapped up in a neat little package, you’re not going to get that here.
There’s a lot of talking in this film, a lot of Hank looking sad and annoyed that people don’t believe him, a lot of maudlin, manly emotions over pictures of Abby and not a lot of real monster antics. The creature effects, when the audience is finally allowed to see them, are decent enough. It’s no Tom Savini or Rob Bottin level of artistry but it does the job. Actually, I’ve just figured out what it looks like: Doctor Who. Not old Who, new Who. It’s that kind of level of effect.
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This isn’t a great film, much as I wish I could say it is. It’s also not a terrible one, though be prepared to sit through a lot of talking before you get to the actual meat of the story. The ending could really have done with being drawn out a bit more. The climax is over and done in less than a minute and a half and an audience deserves more than that after sitting through 80+ minutes of movie.
With all that said, is it worth buying? Tentatively I’m going to say yes. The acting is solid, the effects are good and practical effects always get a thumbs up from me. The story is wonky but heartfelt and while it will leave creature fans unsatisfied the performances are strong enough to draw you in and keep you along for the ride. Definitely one worth checking out on your streaming service of choice if you ever find yourself at a loose end for something new to watch.