Happy August, everyone! Sorry again for taking over a month off, but with the pandemic still making it impossible to go to theaters and a lot of good horror movies that I was looking forward to getting delayed as a result, I've been in kind of a slump. That's not fair to you guys though, so I've been scouring the streaming services to find something, anything from this year that I could write about. What I found was After Midnight which sounds like some corny late night TV show but is actually, in fact, not that. I will be spoiling the movie so before we begin there's your spoiler warning. If you want to check the movie out before reading the rest of this review it's currently free with Amazon Prime. Alright, now that we've taken care of the formalities let's dive in, shall we?
The first thing that I noticed before starting the movie was the runtime and the approval rates. Per Rotten Tomatoes, After Midnight has 50% approval from audiences and 87% from critics, and and with a runtime clocking in under 90 minutes, I already was pretty skeptical going in. Most movies these days push a 2 hour run time, so seeing a movie under an hour and a half could mean a couple of different things: either it's a tight story that does what it needs to do and doesn't overstay its welcome, or it's garbage. The other thing that caught my attention was the cast. Outside of Henry Zebrowski I had never heard of any of these people. That's less worrisome as there are plenty of great moving coming out starring unknowns, so before we dive into the story let's take a look at the cast. After Midnight is written and directed by (and also stars) Jeremy Gardner. Alongside him are primarily Brea Grant and Henry Zebrowski. A bird's eye view of the plot revolves around Hank (Gardner) and Abby (Grant) as they work out their relationship troubles and also there's a monster. Now, I know that those two things sound like they shouldn't match up and you're absolutely right. Let's take a closer look at the plot and see what's going on there.
The movie opens a jump scare. That sucks, and I immediately thought the movie was going to go straight into garbage territory. The first few minutes of the movie are pretty rough to get through as well, with dialogue that feels like it was written by a Junior in high school. Thankfully, that doesn't last long. So Abby and Hank are essentially sweethearts who have been together for 10 years in Hank's old family home. One day Hank wakes up to a note from Abby saying that she had to leave and from there the next hour of the movie is just watching Hank spiral. As soon as Abby leaves Hank is convinced that there's a creature in the woods that tries to get into his house every night. He tries to get his friend Wade (Zebrowski) and even the local sheriff to believe him but nobody does. This goes on for the span of about a month until Abby returns. Things aren't looking great for Hank and Abby and you think they're going to break up when he tells her about the monster and she doesn't believe him either, but the next day at dinner the monster attacks Hank in from of Abby and all their friends. Hank manages to kill the monster and the proposes to Abby, and that's the movie.
Now, I know what you're thinking. On paper, that sounds like garbage. But I'm here to tell you, that while maybe not conventionally a horror movie, After Midnight is a pretty good movie with horror elements in it and while it seems like romantic drama plus monster shouldn't work, it kind of does. At first I thought that maybe the monster was just a manifestation of Hank's mental state, and the guilt he felt of how he hadn't taken Abby's needs into account in kind of a Babadook fashion, but then it turns out that the monster is real and there's no explanation of why it's there, what it wants, and why it only started showing up after Abby left. The scenes where the monster is trying to get into the house are effectively tense because for most of the movie you don't see the monster at all. You catch one quick glimpse of it once and then you see it completely at the end of the movie when it attacks Hank, but the movie does a good job of hiding the monster for the most part. The scene where you see just a glimpse of it is one of the best scenes in the movie. Hank chases after the monster into the woods and it's pitch black outside, you can't see anything on screen except for when Hank fires his rifle and even then it's just a small cone in front of the barrel of the gun that lights up. It's a very well done scene, except for one thing. The monster eats Hank's cat. I said this back in my Child's Play review, but STOP KILLING CATS, HOLLYWOOD. Pick a different animal to have as a pet that gets eaten by the monster. A dog, a horse, literally anything else.
The acting overall is very good for people I've largely never seen act before. Gardner does a great job carrying the movie and even though Grant isn't on screen as much, she does a good job as well. My favorite part of the movie though has to be any time Zebrowski is on screen. The guy is hilarious and has the single best scene in the movie where he and Gardner are looking for the monster and he just goes on a five minute rant about aliens, which is how Henry Zebrowski is in real life and I wouldn't be surprised if he ad-libbed that entire scene.
Overall, After Midnight isn't the next horror classic, but it's a quick watch and a story that is engaging enough with likable characters to get you through it. I would recommend giving it a watch because even if you end up not liking it, you're not wasting a lot of time. If you have seen it I want to know your thoughts! Drop me a comment and we'll talk about it.