Blu-ray Review – After Midnight (2019)

After 10 years living together in a huge dilapidated house in the woods, Abby pins a fuck you note to the fridge and bails on Hank. Lost in a brooding miasma, Hank spend his days firing shotguns at strangers, watching his bar buddy do gorilla farts, don’t ask, and warding off a vicious monster that claws at his front door every night.

As his friends, and “should be family by now” try to guard his mental health it becomes apparent that Hank is teetering on the edge of disaster. Is the hellish creature that haunts him real? Or is it an existential embodiment of emotional wreckage?

Many will stamp this movie certified as slow-burn horror, but After Midnight casts its thematic hooks in an eclectic arc during its lithe 83min run time.

Part romantic drama part creeping horror flick it embraces their integral mechanics and often bleeds one into the other. There is intrigue in both Abby’s disappearance and the monsters manifestation. There is dread in both the self-pity of abandonment and the relentless assault of an otherwordly entity. The relationship dynamics are low key heartbreaking and the jump scares truly heart-stopping.

However, After Midnight is much more than just a genre-savvy mixtape.  The soundtrack is stunning. Ambient soundscapes, cool indie tracks, tender karaoke and tense aural upsurges harmonise beautifully. Carefully curated, written and performed the music elevates and complements the slick visuals.

Obviously having a fabulous time, the cast nails the intimate yet playful tone of the film. It really feels like these characters have a history together and their rapport is candidly authentic. Henry Zebrowski is great value as the likeable Wade. A conspiracy theory enthusiast struggling with paternal responsibility.

An all-important interdependency showdown between Hank and Abby is honest and brutal. Although it is handled without any overtly melodramatic enmity. Focusing on the draining sequela of stagnation, rather than deep-rooted unhappiness and ill-treatment adds a bittersweet poignancy.

The Ernest soul searching is offset further by a superbly timed comedic aside where Hank directly confronts Abby with a possible plot twist the viewer will have been considering. By nearly punching through the fourth wall we are dragged subconsciously into the moment. Very meta-clever indeed.

The film often appears improvisational, a testament to both actor management and the tightness of the clean writing. The naturalistic vibe is infectious and believable, building character profiles through humour and economic pathos. That isn’t to say the film is bereft of finely tuned artistry. Witness the framing and execution of the ambitious 14 min take centrepiece.

Brave and intrepid, this indie movie sticks to its imaginative guns from start to finish. Gracefully  constructed it takes big risks with tone and narrative direction but packs the creative chops to back it up

C0-director and lead actor Jeremy Gardner is a class act. Like his earlier genre film The Battery, After Midnight is a low-fi broadcast on the late-night airwaves of Radio Catharsis. At odds with his own bombastic personality, it is an artistic groove that cares more about the organics of empathy than the flash-fuckery of cinematic flexing.

★★★★

Horror, Relationship Drama | USA, 2019 | 83 mins | 15 – strong language, bloody violence | Limited Edition Blu-ray June 8th and on The Arrow Video Channel and Digital HD now | Arrow Video | Dirs. Jeremy Gardner, Christian Stella| With. Jeremy Gardner, Brea Grant, Henry Zebrowski

 

The Blu-ray transfer looks fabulous and comes with a magnificent array of extras:

TWO-DISC SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
Limited to 2,500 units
High Definition Blu-ray™ (1080p) presentations of After Midnight and Jeremy Gardner’s first feature, The Battery – available on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing  
Reversible sleeve with a choice of artwork designs  
Reversible fold-out poster
Limited edition collector’s booklet containing new writing on After Midnight by William Dass and an archive piece on The Battery by Jeremy Gardner  

DISC ONE: AFTER MIDNIGHT:
Original 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo audio soundtracks
Audio commentary with directors Christian Stella and Jeremy Gardner
Lakeland Florida Q&A, featuring Stella, Gardner, actors Ashley Song, Nicola Masciotra and Taylor Zaudtke, script supervisor Elise Stella and 2nd assistant director Juan Ortiz
Pitching ‘Something Else’, Stella and Gardner pitch the character of Wade to Henry Zebrowski. Featuring an intro by producer Aaron Moorhead
Self-interview while self-quarantined during the coronavirus outbreak. Brand new interview with actor and producer Justin Benson, recorded exclusively for this release
Brea and Barak find Fantastic Fest Scooters. Actors Brea Grant and Barak Hardley hunt down scooters following the Fantastic Fest screening of After Midnight
Behind-the-scenes Featurette
Outtakes
Behind-the-scenes image gallery  
Official international and UK trailers  

DISC TWO: THE BATTERY:
Original stereo audio
Audio commentary featuring writer, director and actor Jeremy Gardner, producer and actor Adam Cronheim, and director of photography Christian Stella
The Making of The Battery, feature-length 90-minute documentary on the making of the film
Featurette on the music of The Battery 
Outtakes
Theatrical trailer