After Midnight / The Battery [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Arrow Films
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (12th July 2020).
The Film

"After Midnight" (2019)

Hank (played by Jeremy Gardner) is living along in his old family home in a rural Florida area with a shotgun by his side to ward off a monstrous creature that lurks in the surrounding area. The townsfolk think he is going insane as no one has seen this supposed monster, and the fact that Hank is still not over the fact that his girlfriend Abby (played by Brea Grant) had left him a while back. Abby's brother and police officer Shane (played by Justin Benson) is concerned for Hank's well being, but no matter what advice is given it resorts to Hank calling Abby's cellphone again and again, and staying up paranoid waiting for the monster's arrival. The reason for Abby's departure is not clear to Hank, as they have had a loving relationship as seen in flashbacks and the supposed monster started appearing after she left. Is the monster all all in Hank's paranoia induced mind, or is something more sinister lurking around him?

The poster for "After Midnight" (previously titled "Something Else" in its early stages) clearly has artwork for a grotesque looking monster, but the film can barely be labeled as a monster movie or a horror movie, as it is a genre bending piece that doesn't fall into any specific category. Co-directed by, written by, and starring Jeremy Gardner, the film's core is a man whose inability to overcome a sudden breakup with a loved one. When the film starts it shows a happy couple moving into a large southern mansion in the middle of nowhere, but then would intercut suddenly with a longer bearded Hank blowing his shotgun in the night and sweating profusely while alone. It later becomes clear that these sequences with Hank and Abby together are flashbacks to happier times and the lonely days of Hank barricading the damaged front door with an old sofa is the harsh reality of now. Heartbreak is never easy to get over and when it comes from one side suddenly leaving, it will leave the partner filled with questions of what exactly happened. Depending on the mental state of the person, it could lead to a simple act of moving on, or in the case of Hank, being completely unsure of what happened and hoping one day that the partner that left would return.

Does "After Midnight" have a monster? Is it an actual creature terrorizing Hank? Is Hank's mental demons playing with his reality? Is Abby a shapeshifter terrorizing Hank? The questions are always in the back of the mind of the viewers, and one should question what is being shown. Are the happy memories of Hank and Abby the truth? These may be only Hank's point of view and these memories may not be what Abby had also experienced. His may be the memories of painting the house, having house parties, making love, and having fun with her. Were there arguments, fights, and tears? Possibly, but those are not what the audiences are given. There are some quick glimpses though, such as a flashback when they are questioned about marriage and kids in which Hank brushes off the topic jokingly while Abby looks and smiles awkwardly. The cycle downward that Hank goes through is also seen through the eyes of acquaintances like Wade (played by Henry Zebrowski) and Shane, and even though they say it is probably a black bear clawing at the doors, Hank is adamant that it is not just a bear, but something unexplained. Audiences are given hints that something exists, but when the creature is fully visible at about halfway through, there is some genuine terror. But again, is this all in Hank's mind or is it his reality?

Spoilers Ahead!
Depending on audiences, there are two outcomes that they could imaging. The possibility of Abby returning or Hank confronting the monster. So it is quite a shocker to find out that both do actually happen and very unexpectedly. Abby returning suddenly and finally having a heart to heart talk with Hank answers quite a lot of questions, and the nearly 15 minute one shot one take sequence of Hank and Abby talking about their relationship is one that is a true highlight of the film. In an almost static shot with very subtle tracking of the camera, the two characters in the shot going through an extremely difficult time in their relationship is at times funny with a few chuckles as well as at times heartbreakingly brutal. As for one of the sweetest and slightly cheesiest moments of the film comes when Hank sings the classic 90s song "Stay" by Lisa Loeb at the birthday party. It's an incredibly tender moment that brings smiles to all the friends at the party but also to the audiences watching. The song "Stay" was originally released for the soundtrack of the film "Reality Bites", and as fate would have it, reality literally takes a bite out of Hank with the emergence of the monster at the party, proving to Hank's friends and to the audiences that there really was a creature that was terrorizing him the entire time. Where the creature came from and why the monster was there is still left to be questioned, but it is certain that one must kill his own demons in order to move on. Whatever the monster represents to one person may be a different vice or memory to another.

The film premiered on April 26, 2019 at the Tribeca Film Festival an played at various international festivals throughout 2019. For the United Kingdom, Arrow Films picked it up for theatrical and media distribution, and for the first pressing of the film on Blu-ray, Arrow has provided a great limited edition which also includes Gardner's first feature film on its own dedicated disc.

"The Battery" (2012)

Ben (played by Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (played by Adam Cronheim) are former baseball players on a journey together in rural wooded America, but it is not for fun but rather survival. It is the middle of a zombie outbreak and the two men must walk carefully, seek shelter quietly, and find sanity in the newly desolate world. Ben is quite the confident one, being adept with guns and eager to bash the heads of the undead with a baseball bat. Mickey on the other hand is a pacifist, frequently with his headphones on and on the lookout while Ben does the more horrifying deeds. Food is scarce and danger is always lurking around the corner, and so is finding any signs of other survivors. At one point the two find a radio frequency of a community calling themselves the Orchard, who are out looking for supplies. Mickey tries to contact them for help, but the members of the group decline as they said they are full up and not interested in taking in more outsiders. Ben is content on surviving through the ordeal on their own, but Mickey on the other hand has his eyes and ears set out on finding the group and having some sort of connection to civilization again.

Writer/director/actor Jeremy Gardner had the idea of "The Battery" for quite a few years while he was a struggling actor, about a zombie movie and the friendship and differences of two survivors. The script evolved over the years, but one of the biggest inspirations was "Night of the Living Dead" and how George Romero raised the money for production from various local investors. Gardner came up with a plan to shoot the film for a mere $6000, therefore he asked ten friends to invest $600 each for the film's budget. Locations would be borrowed or found, friends and family would take part in front of and behind the camera, and resources were limited as could be. The cinematographer Christian Stella was hired through a classified listing, and he was not experienced in cinematography, but more with photography. While Gardner had experience acting on stage and making video shorts that were screened at various small festivals, "The Battery" would be the biggest and most ambitious work he would make up to that point, and even with a minuscule budget for the production, it still meant a great deal of responsibility as well as a learning process of what to do and what not to do.

For a production filled mostly with amateurs, "The Battery" is a surprisingly confident piece of work and very ambitious on its small scale scope. Zombie films are almost always about the gore and effects work. The number of on screen kills in creative ways, the detail in the make-up and special effects, and the gallons of blood used are the focal points. "The Battery" does have kills and some being quite memorable, but the focus is very rarely on the undead. There are only a handful of scenes that deal with the zombies attacking and for the most part they are not the most dangerous, being incredibly slow and awkward, more than the average zombie movie. Instead the main focus is on the two lead characters and their interaction together. They may have played baseball together before the apocalypse, but they were not exactly teammates that clicked together. Ben being a catcher and Mickey being a pitcher, there is a bond between them when they play catch at a safe time and place, but their personalities could not be more different, and their arguments on what to do and where to go is tearing them apart at each turn. But they have no choice. Survival is easier with a second pair of eyes, and they need each other for the long haul. Because the focus is always on the two, it is almost like an alternate storyline in the universe of "The Walking Dead". In the series, the survivors are able to make their own sheltered community at one point, and when random few survivors are found, they are of course skeptical of each other. In "The Battery" there is mention of the survivor community the Orchard and members are heard and later seen. But audiences are never shown what this community is like. Is it a safe commune for all? Or is there something more sinister that happens there? There are hints of the community being possibly worse than life on the outside but this is not a huge budget production able to see the entire world and how things are operating. Instead "The Battery" leaves much to the imagination. Is the United States the only place to be overrun with zombies? Is it the world? We are never given a full overview, and for that there is much that can be filled in with the imagination but that is not the point. It is about the interaction with Ben and Mickey and the changes they go through, including temptation in a hilarious scene with Mickey along in the stationwagon with a female zombie coming up to the window, and how both of them evolve slowly but surely over time together.

Shot on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II that Stella bought for the production as well as being able to double as a camera for his photography, the visuals are actually quite remarkable for the conditions that they were shot in. Stella had to learn how to use the camera and learn about cinematography at the same time while also having some instances of experimentation with focal length and changing the aspect ratio for a more cinematic effect. Scenes were shot and deleted later for inconsistency or other issues, and the final sequence was hammered by terrible rainfall and dark cloudy weather, and Gardner had to fight for the very final escape sequence to be changed from his originally scripted version to something left to the imagination due to trouble not having enough zombies on set and looking poorer than expected. "The Battery" does not hide the fact that it is low budget yet it does much more that many films multiple times its budget could do. It is by no means a perfect film. There are some issues with the pacing in the middle point, as stated the zombies themselves were not as menacing or threatening, and the much discussed 10 minute sequence of the character of Ben helpless and alone in the car just doesn't have the impact it should have had.

"The Battery" premiered at the Telluride Horror Show Film Festival in October 2012 and played at various festivals throughout 2013, winning awards at Toronto After Dark, Horrorant Film Festival, Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival and others. It was through the festival circuit that Gardner met filmmakers Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson who would later cast Gardner in a part for their 2014 film "Spring", and the pair also producing Gardner's anticipated followup "After Midnight".

Note this is a region B Blu-ray set

Video

Arrow Video presents "After Midnight" in the original theatrical 2.39:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The film was shot in 8K and edited in 4K, and the HD transfer comes from AMP Film. The film is visually great with the use of colors in both the interiors of the decrepit house as well as the natural landscape of Florida in the exteriors. The green grass, brown dirt, the dark sequences at night all look crisp as can be, with no issues of compression or errors in the transfer at all. Basically as perfect as it could be.

The film's runtime is 83:15.

Arrow Video presents "The Battery" in the original theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The HD master came directly from cinematographer Christian Stella. While the film may have been shot on a camera off the shelf and from an amateur crew, it is visually quite excellent, with consistent use of colors and framed well, even though to make the aspect ratio letterboxed was actually an afterthought. Colors are bold and bright as much was shot in the daytime rather than at night. Some of the sequences have issues with consistent focus and depth, but they are not particularly distracting or off and was part of the original photography.

The film's runtime is 100:20.

Audio

"After Midnight"
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English LPCM 2.0 Stereo

"The Battery"
English LPCM 2.0 Stereo

"After Midnight" has the theatrical 5.1 mix and a stereo downmix while "The Battery" has the original stereo track as the only option. "After Midnight" sounds quite wonderful with the 5.1 track, with the sounds of the monster's growls, the shotgun blasts, and other ambient effects using the surround soundscape very well throughout. It is a dialogue heavy film and voices come from the center as expected. Dialogue sounds well balanced and always clear throughout, as does the music tracks heard by the live music and karaoke as well as other music cues. The stereo track lacks the depth but is perfectly acceptable.

The stereo track of "The Battery" sounds very good, using the left and right separations for music tracks as heard through Mickey's ears and for other background cues. Dialogue basically centered, and it is well balanced with the music and effects. Some of the dialogue can be a bit on the muffled side especially in the final tense sequences, but that seems to be an issue with the location recording rather than the transfer.

There are optional English HoH subtitles for both films, in a white font.

Extras

This is a 2-disc set with DISC ONE having "After Midnight" and its extras while DISC TWO has "The Battery" and it extras.


DISC ONE

Audio Commentary with directors Christian Stella and Jeremy Gardner
In this commentary for "After Midnight", the directors look back at the making of the film with all the good and bad memories, including the location of the old house having no air conditioning or power though it was 100 degree Fahrenheit weather in Florida, the casting process, the technical issues faced throughout, and how it was troublesome having airplanes flying over the set frequently. Recorded on Stella's computer, there were some troubles with the commentary getting cut off when the computer went to sleep, so during these empty patches Stella provides some additional later recorded commentary to explain the happening and what was discussed during the original commentary.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Lakeland Florida Q&A (24:18)
The cast and crew take questions from a small audience in a post screening event, with the camera also on stage as one of the crew, with Gardner dominating the talk. Included are about the long take, about the creature design, influences, the location, and more.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Pitching 'Something Else'" (with intro by producer Aaron Moorhead) featurette (6:56)
Jeremy Gardner and Christian Stella talk to the camera to possible investors about their project which at the time was still titled "Something Else", with a short foreword by Aaron Moorhead.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Self-Interview While Self-Quarantined During the Coronavirus Outbreak" interview with actor/producer Justin Benson (12:13)
In this exclusive interview, actor and producer Justin Benson talks about his first encounter with Gardner years ago during the festival circuit when "The Battery" was being screened, receiving the script for "After Midnight" and wanting eagerly to produce it, and recalls the production and nervousness of being cast in the film for a small role. In addition, he is proud to show off the Arrow Blu-ray edition of his film "The Endless" and hopes that "Spring" would get the same treatment from them someday.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Brea and Barak Find Fantastic Fest Scooters" featurette (7:48)
Presented in grainy black and white, this impromptu short has Brea Grant and fellow actor Barak Hardley search for two scooters at Fantastic Fest.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 2.40:1, in Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Behind-the-Scenes" featurette (12:50)
A montage of behind the scenes material, from rehearsal footage, set building, and general silliness, all set to music by The Hummingbirds who perform in the bar scene in the film.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Outtakes/Bloopers (10:33)
A series of flubs and silliness during the filming is presented here.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 2.40:1, in Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Behind-the-Scenes" image gallery (9:40)
A gallery of 58 images.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4

International Trailer (1:39)
UK Trailer (1:32)
Two trailers are presented, both being almost identical with the exception of logos.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 2.40:1, in Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles


DISC TWO

Audio Commentary with writer/director/actor Jeremy Gardner, producer/actor Adam Cronheim, and director of photography Christian Stella
The group reminisce about the making of "The Battery" in scene specific detail, from the abandoned locations used, the troubles with the stationwagon, the weather, Stella nearly quitting entirely, and delays getting the project off the ground, but also many of the positive aspects and technical information. Gardner takes the lead but there are some great anecdotes from all the members involved.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Tools of Ignorance: The Making of The Battery" documentary (89:19)
The lengthiest extra is one of the best. This retrospective documentary has interviews with the various cast and crew looking back on the production, from all the highs and lows, Gardner's early work from the college years, detailed information and footage from the shoot and the behind the scenes, changes to the script, and much more. Very well shot and edited and highly entertaining, it's very worth the time and effort with many laughs to be heard and many things to be learned about the small production.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Featurette on the Music of The Battery (10:48)
This short has the members of Rock Plaza Central who provided some music for the film reunite to play together in an intimate setting for the first time in several years. There is basically no dialogue or interviews with the members, only focusing on them jamming to a few familiar tracks. This featurette was also included on the US Shout! Factory Blu-ray but with the title “Rock Plaza Central at The Parlor”.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Outtakes (11:38)
This montage of outtakes features scenes from the film, behind the scenes antics, rehearsals, and more.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Theatrical Trailer (1:50)
The original trailer with some critics quotes is presented.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 2.35:1, in Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles


Booklet
A 34 page booklet is included. First is the essay "Porch Alchemy in Florida: Finding Love on a Monster Hunt" by William Dass, co-host of the podcast "In the Mouth of Dorkness ChatCast". This is followed by "Notes from the Underground: The Battery Powered by Imagination" by Jeremy Gardner originally published in Fangoria. There are also stills, credits, and transfer info.


"After Midnight" has previously been released in Germany by A!ive with some of the extras posted above. In the US it was released by Good Deed Entertainment but specs are to be confirmed. "The Battery" was released in Germany by Meteor which included the commentary and music featurette, plus the exclusive "Real Whiskey" featurette, but missing the lengthy documentary. It was also released in the US by Shout! Factory which has the same extras as the Arrow, but also includes a 5.1 remix.


The Arrow trailer for "After Midnight" has been embedded below.


The Arrow trailer for "The Battery" has been embedded below.

Packaging

This limited edition set is numbered to 2500 copies. The discs are housed in a standard keep case with reversible artwork - both for "After Midnight", with the booklet and a double sided poster - one side for "After Midnight" and the other side for "The Battery". A slipcase is also included.

Overall

Arrow's limited edition packaging of Jeremy Gardner's two directorial features is a very nice package for the indie horror dramas, with excellent supplements for both films and great transfers as well. Highly recommended.

The Film: B+ Video: A Audio: A Extras: A Overall: A

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.