Gardner and Stella do a commendable job keeping things tantalizingly ambiguous in a film that tilts heavily towards the poignant rather than the terrifying or grotesque. It may disappoint gorehounds looking to get their fix, with only a blood-spurting, antler-stabbing sequence satiating such desires. But as genre hybrids go, After Midnight displays enough nuance and filmmaking savvy to qualify as a success.
While some of the flashbacks could have been shortened or livened up a little, the intercutting between past and present works in the film’s favor, juxtaposing Hank’s deteriorating reality against his nostalgic memories. Gardner and Stella clearly favor extended dialogue sequences over jump scares. They incisively touch upon compelling themes of self-denial, depression spirals, perceived social status, self aspirations, and how the dismissal of said ambitions from the important people in life can tear someone down.
“..a poignant study of heartbreak, viewed through the prism of a creature feature, is a welcome surprise.”
The cast certainly helps the filmmakers live up to their lofty ambitions. Hank and Abby’s relationship, which forms the heart of the film, comes across as authentic and believable. A standout sequence involving a discussion of babies over dinner with friends illustrates how terrific both Brea Grant and Jeremy Gardner are. Using nothing more than a few subtle glances and gestures, they are able to communicate a plethora of emotions
After Midnight is not perfect; not by a long shot. The plot meanders at times, and its ending isn’t as sublime as it was undoubtedly intended to be. Plus, those expecting either geysers of blood – or cerebral titillation, a-la Trey Edward Shults’ It Comes At Night (an obvious inspiration) – may be left scratching their heads. Yet in a season filled with age-old Grudges and evil Boys, a poignant study of heartbreak, viewed through the prism of a creature feature, is a welcome surprise.
"…a hilarious shock worthy of comparisons to the infamous 'Sam-Jackson-gets-swallowed-by-giant-shark' scene in Deep Blue Sea."