Another terrific release from the good folk at Arrow Video, this time showcasing the emerging directorial duo of Jeremy Gardner and Christian Stella. Following their ultra-low budget debut The Battery (which is included in this release) and the comedy Tex Montana Will Survive, their latest effort After Midnight is an almost unclassifiable movie experience, and I would highly recommend knowing as little about the film as possible before you watch it.
Hank (writer and co-director Gardner) and Abby (Brea Grant) have been together for ten years. The opening scenes in the film intercut between the early stages of their relationship and the present day. Those intimate and romantic early days contrast violently with the present, where Abby has gone, and Hank is an alcoholic mess. To make matters worse, every night since Abby left, Hank has been under attack from some unseen beast that has been clawing at his door and trying to get inside.
After Midnight is a tough film to talk about without taking away some of the surprising joys of seeing it cold. It takes a very clear-eyed look at relationships by slicing one down the middle and exposing the sacrifices we make for one another, and the things we take from each other. It’s a film that has something to say about the human condition. That this is neatly cocooned in a gruesome and eerie creature feature just makes it all the more interesting.
Landing somewhere in the strange Venn diagram of survival horror, southern gothic, indie comedy, and mumblecore relationship movie, After Midnight is a completely unique experience. Comparisons have been drawn—by marketing people I presume—with It Comes at Night and A Quiet Place. I think these are somewhat reductive. After Midnight doesn’t have the oppressive dread of the former or the blockbuster tension of the latter. It is very much its own thing.
Gardner and Grant are terrific in the lead roles, giving soulful and emotionally heartfelt performances. One sequence in particular—a long unbroken take of dialogue between them both—is extremely affecting. There’s an intimate and lyrical romanticism at the core of After Midnight that really caught me off guard. But if you’re just here for a blood and guts horror you might come away disappointed. There’s plenty of tension, a few good scares, and a decent amount of gore, but there’s a lot more to be enjoyed here than just visceral thrills.
As always with Arrow Video releases you are by no means short-changed on the special features front. Disc one comes with an audio commentary from the co-directors. There is also a 25-minute Q&A from a post-screening in Lakeland Florida, with the directors, cast, and some of the crew.
Pitching ‘Something Else’ (the original title of After Midnight) is a short featurette with the directors doing a video pitch of the film for actor Henry Zebrowksi. This is introduced by producer Aaron Moorhead. Recorded exclusively for this release, whilst in self-quarantine during the coronavirus pandemic, producer and actor Justin Benson interviews himself and talks about his experience with the film.
There’s also a behind the scenes featurette, 10-minutes of bloopers and outtakes, an image gallery, and trailers. Then, as already mentioned, disc two comes with The Battery, Gardner’s 2012 zombie apocalypse film, which he made for a reported budget of $6,000. This disc comes with an audio commentary, a making-of featurette, a piece about the music of the film, a selection of outtakes, and the theatrical trailer.
Cast: Jeremy Gardner, Brea Grant, Justin Benson, Henry Zebrowski Director: Jeremy Gardner & Christian Stella Writer: Jeremy Gardner Released By: Arrow Video Certificate: 15 Duration: 83 mins Release Date: 8th June 2020