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Saturday, February 22, 2020

Review: After Midnight

Director: Jeremy Gardner and Christian Stella
Screenplay: Jeremy Gardner
Year: 2020

“After Midnight” is presented as a new proposal in horror cinema in the creature feature subgenre. At least this is what the poster and promotional campaign suggest, but is it correct?

Hank’s life suddenly changes when his wife, without more explanation than an ambiguous note on the fridge, leaves their house without any clues to her destination. His emotional health starts deteriorating by the sudden way his wife left and because since that moment a creature stalks his home every night. Hank tries to convince his friends that the creature that stalks him is not a product of his imagination as a product of his suffering, as he also tried to locate his wife and maintain his sanity.

The question about if “After Midnight” is really a creature feature, or a horror movie for all that matters, originates from the fact that a great deal of the narrative is dedicated to exploring the relationship between a couple. As a clarification, there is nothing wild or disturbing in their relationship, they are a common couple with common relationship problems, which we get to experience for most of the movie. Actually, the main issue that gives way to the plot doesn’t even seem to be as significant as what the script of Jeremy Gardner (“The Battery”), who co-directs along Christian Stella (“Tex Montana Will Survive!”) and also stars in the movie, suggests.

Director Gardner puts much effort into representing the emotions of his protagonist on screen. A good part of this comes from the excellent job made in the acting by all the members of the short cast, particularly from the protagonist couple interpreted by Gardner himself and Brea Grant (“A Ghost Story”). Emotions are also represented by means of lighting, often reflecting Hank’s emotional state modified by the presence or absence of his wife Abby.

As a movie, “After Midnight” does a good job, especially in exploring the emotions of the protagonists, their relationship, and the character arc. As a horror movie, the story is completely different. The long dialogue and retrospective scenes contrasting the state of the relationship of the protagonist in past and present interrupts the suspense created in the night scenes where the creature visits Hank. The creature is presented in the movie, but its short presence doesn’t compensate for the long and slow buildup.

In the short time the creature shows up, the design and how well it was done can be appreciated. Its short time on screen and its great look forces you to question why it wasn't showcased more, especially when the couple relationship development could have easily been reduced without affecting the emotional effect it might have on the viewer. This would have accomplished getting rid of some boring moments and give it a much more appropriate rhythm for a horror movie.

"After Midnight", instead of a horror movie, should be classified as a drama with horror elements. Although it is not a bad movie, those who watch it expecting a horror movie, as the classification indicates, will be disappointed by how little it gets into the genre and how much time is invested in the drama. For those that enjoy character exploration that gets deep into the emotional part of a relationship nearing its end, "After Midnight" has a lot to offer, but those expecting a movie where the creature wreaks havoc should better pass.

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