REVIEW: ‘After Midnight’ Is More Romantic Drama Than Horror

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After Midnight

Romance and horror are two subjects that often go hand-in-hand, but there are very few movies that nail the balance. After Midnight (formerly known as Something Else) is a hybrid genre film with aspects of both horror and romantic drama, but leans much more into its breakup story than its horror story. Jeremy Gardner and Christian Stella direct, while Gardner also wrote and stars in this Shudder Exclusive that struggles to balance these two genres, but creates something special nonetheless.

After Midnight tells the story of Hank (Jeremy Gardner), a 30-something-year-old man living in the small town he grew up in. He’s struggling with the sudden departure of his girlfriend of ten years, Abby (Brea Grant). Without Abby, Hank’s life starts to fall apart – he doesn’t know how to pay his bills, he’s got some anger issues, his friends think he’s ruined the one good relationship he’s had in his life, and a mysterious monster starts showing up at his door every night to scratch at his door and disappear into the night. 

The arc of Hank and Abby’s relationship is told mostly through flashbacks, which do most of the heavy lifting in the first half of the movie. There are some really interesting sentiments surrounding long term relationships and how people grow with and out of each other, and that makes the movie touching and memorable. Gardner and Grant as Hank and Abby have a natural and easy chemistry that makes this rocky relationship feel realistic. When Hank is alone, however, it’s hard for the viewer to understand what to make of his anger issues and paranoia, no matter how hard of a time he’s going through. The film finds its weight when the two are together. When they’re apart, it’s hard to remember what the story is in the first place.

As for scares, they’re few and far between. If you go into After Midnight looking for a horror movie, you might end up disappointed, since most of the screen time is spent on Hank trying to figure out exactly what went wrong with his relationship. Besides a few audio effects, After Midnight takes too long to start making an effort as a scary movie, and clearly has its heart in the breakup as opposed to the monster. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but having the wrong expectations could drastically change how viewers come away from the film. The plot seems to move at a snail’s pace until about halfway through. During that time, it’s difficult to tell where the story is headed; with flashbacks and Hank’s angst taking up most of the screentime and only small glimpses of what horrors Hank is dealing with. 

In terms of visuals, what After Midnight lacks in horror comes through with clever camera work and sets that anyone from a small town would recognize. Shots of Hank alone in the home he used to share with Abby convey more than his dialogue does. His flashbacks (for the most part) are cleverly contrasted with these moments of feeling alone with good transitions. The sound design is more effective than visuals in terms of the film’s scares. 

In short, presenting After Midnight as a horror film is misleading – it will be much more enjoyable going in knowing that it will lean on a romantic drama storyline than expecting scares. If you can find enjoyment in the quirky small-town life and the existential horror of loving someone for your whole life as opposed to traditional monster scares, you’ll enjoy After Midnight. If you’re looking for something that will scare you and stick with you, you might want to look elsewhere.

After Midnight is streaming exclusively on Shudder on February 11th, 2021.

 

  • 6/10
    Rating - 6/10
6/10

TL;DR

In short, presenting After Midnight as a horror film is misleading – it will be much more enjoyable going in knowing that it will lean on a romantic drama storyline than expecting scares. If you can find enjoyment in the quirky small-town life and the existential horror of loving someone for your whole life as opposed to traditional monster scares, you’ll enjoy After Midnight. If you’re looking for something that will scare you and stick with you, you might want to look elsewhere.