After Midnight

more important than the threatening ghouls. While his follow-up film, After Midnight (co-di- rected by Christian Stella), similarly uses a tradi- tional genre subject as the framework for an ex- amination of the human condition, it’s also about a different kind of survival: how a guy deals with the brightest light in his life being extinguished. Gardner stars as Hank, a rural Floridian whose girlfriend Abby (Brea Grant) has abruptly left the house they shared, leaving behind a note with no explanations. Under- standably, he is stew- ing in depression, and his attempts to con- tact Abby via phone or through her policeman brother Shane (Justin Benson of Resolution and The Endless) are futile. To make mat- ters worse, a mys- terious creature has begun turning up late at night, clawing and

pounding on his front door. Is the monster a met- aphor for the personal demons that haunt him? His friends seem to think the unearthly entity is all in his head, and that the physical evidence can be attributed to a wild animal. The more im- portant thing is that Hank reconcile himself with the love of his life taking off, and recognize the reasons why she left.

Incorporating numerous flashbacks to Hank and Abby’s life together, After Midnight is written and performed with a depth of feeling that would

be remarkable in a movie of any genre. Gardner and Grant share a chemistry that charges both their romantic moments and their tense ones; the pièce de résistance is a single-take shot that lasts around fourteen minutes, fixed on them both as they hash out the state of their relationship. Henry Zebrowski is hilarious as Hank’s best bar bud Wade, nattering on about aliens and other theories centred on the late-night visitor. The mysteri- ous beast, while relegated to the sidelines for most of the running time, makes its presence explicitly known at a handful of mo- ments – including one of the biggest jumps you’ll get from a movie this year.


Cult of the Sinister Sisters THE OTHER LAMB

Starring Raffey Cassidy, Michiel Huisman and Denise Gough

Directed by Malgorzata Szumowska Written by Catherine S. McMullen Mubi

Cresting the wave of festival-friendly femi- nist folk horror alongside The Witch and Mid- sommar, The Other Lamb mercifully dispenses with the former’s po-faced seriousness and the latter’s overwrought pretension (though it does share The Witch’s odd fascination with malev-

olent horned ovine characters). Instead, it delivers a compel- ling, character-driven, and dis- tressingly authentic cult narra- tive that draws us deep into a self-contained society just as it’s about to tear itself to pieces. Selah (Raffey Cassidy, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) is a prepubescent Sister of an un- named all-female collective, which is rigidly divided (and thoughtfully colour-coded) into younger Sisters and older

Mothers, living a sheltered existence far from the modern world. Like the rest of her brethren, she is unquestioningly faithful and subservient to the group’s odious male leader (natch), Shep- herd (Michiel Huisman, Game of Thrones’ sec- ond Daario Naharis and, more recently, Steven Crain in Mike Flanagan’s Haunting of Hill House series).

While screenwriter McMullen may not get points for subtle naming conventions, her script excels at deftly constructing a complete world for these women and their manipulative and abusive patriarch, with its own hierarchies and internal conflicts. She and Malgorzata Szumows- ka are confident enough to focus on the specifics and allow the audience to infer the rest. It’s an effective gambit: so quickly and completely are we immersed into this world that the arrival of a police cruiser thirty minutes in feels genuinely alien and invasive.



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