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Review: AFTER MIDNIGHT (2019) – Fantastic Fest

Jeremy Gardner made a name for himself in 2012 when he wrote, directed and starred in The Battery. A no-budget character study disguised as a zombie film, it took the critics by surprise and gained him tons of praise. Since then, though, he’s kept a fairly low profile. His next film, the $1,500 Tex Montana, Will Survive! Went straight to YouTube. He’s turned up as an actor in the likes of The Mind’s Eye and Psychopaths, but that’s been about it.

Well, now we have a new film from him and frequent collaborator/co-director Christian Stella, After Midnight. The film made its debut earlier this year at Tribeca under the title Something Else and is now playing Fantastic Fest from where my screener came. Is this the film to bring Gardner back into the limelight?

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Hank (Jeremy Gardner) and Abby (Brea Grant, Bad Apples, Dead Night) are a happy couple. Or at least they were until abbey packs up and leaves, with only a vague note left by way of explanation. He falls into a depression, drinking too much and trying to figure out why she left.

Then the monster shows up. Trying to break into his house every night and pushing him even closer to a breakdown. But will Abby’s equally abrupt return make matters better or worse?

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After Midnight was produced by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead through their company Rustic Films, and Benson has a supporting role as Abby’s brother. It’s fitting because the film takes the same approach to monster movies as their film Spring. It uses the genre to examine human emotions and relationships rather than solely concentrate on scares.

And that is an approach not dissimilar from the one Gardner took with The Battery. And like those two films, that’s going to cause a divide among those who see After Midnight. Because it is much more about people and emotions than monsters. The film’s main set piece is a nearly fifteen-minute single-shot of Hank and Abby discussing their relationship. It’s an incredible display of acting and a firm indicator of where the film’s heart lies.

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If you liked The Battery and the films of Benson and Moorhead, then After Midnight should appeal to you. I did like it, though I wish there had been a little more horror worked into the mix. It’s just a little too much of a drama and lacks a scene like the car sequence in The Battery to balance out the genres.

After Midnight is currently on the festival circuit. You can check for screening dates on its Facebook page. It has been picked up by Cranked Up for North American distribution and will be released in cinemas and on-demand during the first quarter of 2020.

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