Rated TV-MA | Color | 83 minutes
Directed by Jeremy Gardner and Christian Stella
Also Known As: Something Else
Purchase it: Amazon.com (Blu-ray) | Amazon.com (Digital)

About five years ago, I received a Blu-ray copy of THE BATTERY from Scream Factory for reviewing purposes – my first experience with Jeremy Gardner’s work. Having watched and reviewed numerous low-budget post-apocalyptic zombie flicks, I was shocked to find that this film had substance and heart! I was impressed with THE BATTERY and gave it a fairly positive review. So, when I found out that Jeremy made a low-budget creature feature, I had to check it out!

AFTER MIDNIGHT (formerly SOMETHING ELSE) was written and co-directed (and edited) by Gardner, who also stars as Hank. When we first meet him, he’s dozing on a couch (barricading his front doors) with a shotgun across his lap. Every night since his girlfriend Abby (Brea Grant) vanished, a mysterious creature claws at the door to get in. Hints early on suggest the nightly visitor is connected to Abby’s disappearance, but as the film progresses, we learn that’s not the case.

Several weeks earlier, Abby left for a class reunion in Miami and stayed to take a break from her long-term relationship, enjoying the culture, nightlife, and cuisine in the big city. The problem is, she never told Hank or answered his increasingly frantic calls. This is surprising because we see Hank’s happy memories of their love, initially making me think the creature haunting him either killed Abby or was Abby. (Spoiler: I was wrong on both counts.)

Why the cold shoulder from Abby? Their relationship is on the rocks because they want different things: Abby yearns to leave their small town, get married, and start a family, while Hank is content with his life and in no rush to have children. (Ack! I feel personally attacked by this movie!)

Essentially, we have a failure to communicate, which Hank and Abby finally start doing when she returns. But it seems too little, too late. They’ve both hurt each other: Hank by dismissing Abby’s emotional needs, and Abby by leaving Hank alone to wonder where she is and if she’s okay. (She also left him to run their business by himself while battling an unwelcome nighttime visitor that no one believes exists.) It truly seems this once idyllic love may be over.

The final act wraps things up quickly, taking place at the fixer-upper Hank and Abby call home. A small group of friends arrives to celebrate Abby’s birthday and engage in drunken karaoke until Abby’s brother, the local cop, addresses the “elephant in the room”: Hank’s monster. Hank stands up for himself, pours his heart out to Abby, and then goes mano a mano with the film’s mystery creature in front of Abby and their guests before finally doing the unthinkable.

AFTER MIDNIGHT takes a bit too long to get going and focuses most of its runtime on Hank and Abby’s crumbling relationship. The film is shot and edited well, featuring several good performances, but the plot meanders in the first half. Thankfully, things pick up nicely throughout the rest of the film, leading to Hank’s (anti)climactic duel with his nocturnal tormentor. Speaking of which, I was quite disappointed that the much-touted monster had so little screen time and so little bearing on the story – it almost feels tacked on.

Even now, I haven’t come up with a satisfactory reason for including the creature. Is it a cryptid or an alien drawn to Hank’s negative emotions? A manifestation of the growing toxicity in his relationship with Abby? Does it symbolize anything?! I have no idea! All I know is that it has a cool design and is severely underutilized! (How can you emblazon the creature on the movie poster but only show it on screen for sixty seconds?! Gah!)

AFTER MIDNIGHT is a well-made indie film worth watching, though it strings you along with the promise of monster hijinks, much like how Hank likely strung Abby along with hopes of marriage and babies to keep her in his life. Wait… did I just figure out the creature’s purpose in the film? Is it merely there to make us feel like Abby?!

Despite my misgivings about the lack of monster action, AFTER MIDNIGHT is a solid effort from Jeremy Gardner that shows what it’s like when the “honeymoon is over” in a relationship. While I didn’t like it as much as THE BATTERY, it kept my interest and therefore gets my recommendation