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Review: Florida man terrorized by supernatural creature in indie horror ‘After Midnight’

Jeremy Gardner portrays a small-time bar owner stalked by his demons in “After Midnight.” He also wrote the screenplay and co-directed.
Jeremy Gardner portrays a small-time bar owner stalked by his demons in “After Midnight.” He also wrote the screenplay and co-directed.
(Cranked Up Films)

The offbeat B-movie “After Midnight” isn’t the first horror film to use a ravenous supernatural creature as a metaphor for the hero’s personal problems. But it’s one of the few that even tries to be terrifying. Ditch the beastie in the woods and this picture could be mistaken for any earnest indie drama about a self-centered schmo realizing he’s taking his girlfriend for granted.

That’s not a knock. Co-directors Christian Stella and Jeremy Gardner — the latter of whom also wrote the screenplay and plays the doltish boyfriend, Hank — give this common scenario some dimension and personality. Even without a monster scratching at the regretful Hank’s door each night, this film emphasizes the overpowering fears this guy faces.

Give credit to Brea Grant’s performance as Abby, Hank’s longtime romantic partner, a small-town Florida bartender who in flashbacks is seen bringing joy and beauty to his life — even as she admits that she pines for stability and misses the diversity and culture of nearby Miami.

Abby disappears with minimal explanation early in “After Midnight,” at which point Hank becomes increasingly isolated and paranoid, and anxious about the snarling demon he claims is hunting him. Gardner and Stella alternate monster attacks and flashbacks to happier times, before ultimately focusing more on the latter.

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Genre fans may be disappointed by this bait-and-switch, but for the most part Hank’s heartbreak resonates. By the end of “After Midnight,” he and the audience both may wonder whether the bogeyman and true love are equally mythical.

'After Midnight'
Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes

Playing: Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood; also on VOD


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