Welcome to Knockout Horror and to another Quick Fire Review. It’s the 14th of February and that can mean only one thing. It’s Valentine’s day and we are taking a look at a Horror Romance. I mean, what better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day? You throw on a horror movie about a creature that haunts a man. Only to realise that you have been dragged into a romance drama. That’s exactly what you can expect with Shudder original After Midnight.
It is for this reason that we are covering this movie in a quick fire review. It’s really not a horror movie. Despite director, writer, star Jeremy Gardner’s horror pedigree. This feels far closer to a drama movie than anything else. In fact, I would say this is one of those movies likely to piss people off. Horror fans do not take well to their genre being hijacked. The easiest way to ostracise horror fans is to throw them a curve ball. Make them think they are getting something scary. Only to give them a movie about two lovers moving in different directions.
Still, it is very fitting given the day. It is, also, actually quite a decent movie. Released in 2019 but held up by world events. It is only recently becoming more widely available. Definitely not for everyone but well worth a watch. Let’s take a look. As always with our Quick Fire Reviews. I will stay strictly under 1,000 words not including this opening and headers.
We put out a couple of Horror Movie Ending Explained articles each week. In these articles, we take a look at certain movies and explain the ending. It’s pretty straightforward really. Many of these films may have obvious endings with a few questions left unanswered. Others will be ridiculously confusing. We approach them all the same and try to clear things up.
After Midnight is fairly straight forward. There are some things to discuss, though. The deeper romance based elements of the plot are fairly intriguing. The ending could use a little explanation, as well. Why not check out our After Midnight Ending Explained article? Keep in mind, if you have never watched the movie. The article is not spoiler free. Read this review first, which is spoiler free, and check out the movie.
After Midnight follows the story of Hank. Since his partner, Abby, has left him. He is haunted by a creature scratching at his door. Hank spends his nights drinking on the couch, watching the front door. Shotgun in hand ready to fight off the other worldly invader. His friends don’t believe him and think it must be a black bear. Hank, however, knows different and is determined to prove them wrong.
So this, initially, sounds like a fairly typical horror movie. Man is harassed by a creature. He grabs a shotgun and attempts to hunt it down. We have seen this before a million times. The involvement of well regarded director Justin Benson (Resolution, Spring) as producer helps. Jeremy Gardner, who writes, directs and stars, is also no stranger to good horror. This movie has a decent pedigree and plenty of potential.
Hank’s memories hint at a relationship that was, at one time, perfect. His current situation contrasts starkly against the vivid images of flowers and fun. He now finds himself the victim of a creature relentlessly tormenting him. It comes every night and seems impervious to Hank’s efforts to stop it. We see glimpses of it through a hole in the door. Its growls suggest something with malicious intent making for effective horror. The early stages of the movie are both tense and intriguing.
So why do so many people, seemingly, dislike After Midnight? Well, it is quite simple. At a certain point in the movie. It becomes very clear that After Midnight is not quite what it seems. About half way through. You suddenly realise that you are actually watching a romance drama. Clearly horror fans do not like to be victims of a bait and switch. This is something that film-makers are doing all too often, lately. Horror movies that turn out to not actually be horror at all are common. Some are horror adjacent. Others are not horror at all.
Despite this, After Midnight does manage some effective scares. Scenes where Hank is encountering the creature work well. Clever use of sound and anticipation make for impactful horror. Growls and something unseen, running heavily, prod the imagination. What could the creature be? How big is it? What does it look like? There is a decent level of tension. You are eager to find out what is going on. Hank doesn’t feel like a vulnerable protagonist. He is a hunter, after all. His drunken state and inability to cope does lend him a sense of ineptitude, though.
It is clear that the things he is going through are troubling him deeply. The fact that his friends don’t believe him doesn’t help. He resorts to alcohol as a way of coping which further compounds the issue. Around the midway point, however, it becomes clear that this movie may not be what it seems. That is when the romance element kicks in.
Flashbacks to happier times suddenly seem more relevant than the creature’s nightly attacks. Hank confides in friends while attempting to drink his problems away. He can’t function without Abby and is falling apart. The cat he bought for her is missing. He doesn’t know how to deal with the bills for their business. He is reacting violently to strangers in the street. The horror seems far less of a concern. It goes from being a primary focus. To being drip fed in every now and then to keep genre fans happy.
After Midnight suddenly makes itself very clear. It is a romance movie with a minor horror element. This is uneasy territory for a film that markets itself as horror to tread on. Sure to provoke anger and feelings of being deceived in some viewers. A baffling karaoke scene is painful to watch but sums the movie up nicely. Like After Midnight itself. It is strange, a little awkward, and targeted at the wrong audience.
I will take a brief second to point something out, here. How have I watched two horror movies that feature full renditions of Lisa Loeb’s Stay? Homewrecker did the same thing. What the fuck is going on? Have I missed something here? It makes no sense. I feel like these movies are Rick-Rolling me but with Lisa Loeb. Either way, said scene is equally as bad and just as awkward as the one from Homewrecker.
The thing that stands out about After Midnight. Despite it’s somewhat deceptive approach to horror. Is the fact that it is actually an enjoyable movie. As the first scenes kicked in. The somewhat cheesy presentation had me worried. The visuals felt cheap. The ridiculously loud music drowning out the speech provoked a few eye rolls. The awkward flashback scenes reminded me of Mr Adler from South Park.
But then, it all sort of comes together. Jeremy Gardner, as Hank, does a really good job. He seems like a bit of a terminal loser at the start. You do empathise, somewhat, with his character as the movie goes on. Brea Grant, as Abby, is even better. Totally believable and very convincing in both moments of joy and turmoil. Henry Zebrowski, as Hank’s friend Wade, is hilarious. And Justin Benson’s turn as cop Shane feels suitably sleazy. There are a decent number of laughs. Some genuinely authentic character interactions. Decent pacing and a satisfying ending.
After Midnight is a legitimately good movie. It is well acted, engaging, and well paced. The story is interesting and the horror elements work. There is very little to complain about. Sure, the visuals are rough at times but the camera work is decent. It's never antsy and shots are allowed to linger and develop. The music can be a little loud but sound production is good. The creature design is extremely lacking but at least it isn't CG. The only real problem here is that it isn't a proper horror movie. It is a romance with horror elements. If that isn't a problem for you, check it out. It is well worth a watch.