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Dying relationships are their own kind of exquisite horror and much like horror films, moviegoers are drawn to serious, dramatic stories about relationships in peril. There is an element of voyeurism in it, a kind of an appeal to a desire to place oneself into the drama or at least identify with what is seen. After Midnight (2019) is relationship horror, mashing up a creature feature with a slow burn analysis of why a loving couple begin to split but does that combination work? Yes and no. Aesthetically and thematically, there is a lot to admire about the film After Midnight, but the whole of the project doesn’t quite land.

After Midnight follows Hank, a man who is grappling with the sudden disappearance of his romantic and business partner of ten years for over a month. During this time, between drinking and feeling sorry for himself, Hank finds himself stalked by a monster in the swamps outside his home every night. Directed by Jeremy Gardner (also credited as the writer) and Christian Stella, the film stars Jeremy Gardner as Hank, and Brea Grant as Abby, his missing partner. The film also features Henry Zebrowski and Justin Benson as confidants of Hank and Abby who he struggles to convince of the threat of the monster that attacks each night.

A rare glimpse at a non-nude Henry Zebrowski

The film’s strengths lie in a number of elements, the central metaphor is a strong one, while the performances and aesthetics are, as a whole, excellent. The film’s linking of Hank’s anxieties and malaise about his relationship to the monster is excellent overall until the point in which is dropped, right around the time of Abby’s return back to their home. From there it becomes a sort of strange novelty that doesn’t really pay off until the end in a surprisingly bleak and hilarious moment. It’s there that the metaphor becomes far too obvious, however; Hank kills the “old Hank” with vigor and extreme prejudice, eager to move onto the next stage of his life and love, whatever it may hold. Despite the presence of a very real monster in the story, however, most of the dread is manifested in a powerfully awkward and frank argument between Hank and Abby near the end of the film. It’s here that the film is at its best and that the monster metaphor is at its most effective: the couple air their grievances, but Hank, unwilling to move forward keeps his hand on his shotgun on his porch, waiting for the monster to attack, not recognizing the monster that his inattentiveness has created. The sequence is slow and oppressive, the camera zooming in as more and more layers of Hank and Abby’s relationship are torn away from the core problem: Abby wants more from life, and Hank is content with things as they are. It’s the most compelling moment in the film and more raw and brutal than any of the few depicted monster attacks.

So much of the film’s success hinges on the performance of Jeremy Gardner and he does a fine job at playing a sulking manchild, which is absolutely necessary given the central tension of the film. He plays drunk well, and even at his most manic, mopey, or sloshed, there is still a sort of charm that persists and helps explain why Hank and Abby have remained together for over a decade, albeit unmarried. Hank is a functioning adult, but Gardner is able to give him that sort of necessary distractedness that plays out in his scenes with his friends; someone who is hearing how to solve his problems, but not really listening to the people who are saying them. Abby, played by Brea Grant, doesn’t get nearly as much to do in the film, but certainly leaves an impact. She is seen, initially, strictly through Hank’s rosy memories, but her sudden return at the midpoint of the film, however, gives her necessary depth by contrast; Hank saw things one way, but Abby introduces a cold, hard reality into the fantasy. Grant’s excellent in both cases, she looks and appears radiant in the memories, someone anyone can fall in love with, but she also plays someone deeply frustrated and bored when reality sets in on her return. It’s a largely thankless role, but she played it with aplomb.

The best scene of the movie

The two other major performances in the film Henry Zebrowski’s Wade, and Justin Benson’s Shane are a little more uneven. Not necessarily bad, but their roles are largely stock, though they do present some fun moments. Zebrowski, for example, comes off as himself rather than a character, as though the role was written for him. The podcaster/comedian, known so heavily for his manic performances, does come off as slightly subdued, as fits the role of “Florida Man becomes Father” that Wade represents. He gets some fun dialogue and a memorable scene where here drinks from a bar mat, but his character does little else but provides a funny sounding-board for Hank’s thoughts and reflects Hank’s anxieties of being a “settled man.” Benson gets the tougher job playing the skeptical realist and a cop, no less, but holds himself well in the role. He is given the necessary role of drumming up conflict for the ending as the worst dinner guest in a film, second to a literal monster, but it works. His character does feel a bit one-note, however, the cold splash of water on Hank’s issues and little else.

The run-down house out near Florida swamps looks excellent, and as a whole, the cinematography puts in work visualizing the issues the film tackles. Hank’s perspective in his memories is quite literally played as angelic with halos of light around Abby. The violent contrast of the house upon his waking, which happens several times in the film, serves to emphasize the grim reality of his life decaying because of his refusal to move on. As for the monster? The design is fun, especially because the film subverts expectations quite a bit when it comes to how much they reveal. Just as one thinks the monster’s fleeting appearances are necessarily constrained by budget, one finds themselves surprised.

Shit gets real, real sudden-like

The uneven structure of the film is what harms it most, as it can never quite get the combination of creature-feature and relationship drama right. There are flashes where it happens, but overall, for a large portion of the film viewers may forget about the presence of the monster, more consumed by the horror of a dying relationship. When the frayed threads entwine at the conclusion, however, it is too late. Despite those issues, the film accomplishes a lot during an 83-minute runtime. After Midnight is worth a watch and offers some fun moments, some compelling relationship drama, and a cool-looking monster. 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

You can watch After Midnight on Shudder.

David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

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Movies n TV

My Best Friend’s Exorcism, a Film Review

My Best Friend’s Exorcism (2022) is a R-rated horror comedy directed by Damon Thomas, available on Amazon Prime.



My Best Friend’s Exorcism (2022) is a horror comedy directed by Damon Thomas. Based on Grady Hendrix’s novel of the same name, this R-rated film stars Elsie Fisher, Amiah Miller, Cathay Ang, and Rachel Ogechi Kanu. As of this review, the film is available to Amazon Prime subscribers.

Abby Rivers (Elsie Fisher) and Gretchen Lang (Amiah Miller) seek to escape the monotony of high school drama with their friends. However, in their efforts to have fun, Gretchen Lang encounters a troubling otherworldly demon bent on controlling her body. It’s up to Abby to help her overcome this demonic threat.

A VHS style cover with a girl with red eyes dominating the page. Two girls below here with pink balloons. A clocktower to the right and a field to the left
My Best Friend’s Exorcism Novel Cover

What I Like in My Best Friend’s Exorcism

The effects are surprisingly good. While not overwhelming, these effects never take me out of the film. Even the less realistic scenes fit the overall tone while looking better than expected or required. The 80’s aesthetic strengthens that believability.

Continuing that thought, My Best Friend’s Exorcism oozes the 80’s. Perhaps this comment should set an expectation for the viewer. I can’t exactly comment on the accuracy of the era, but it certainly fits the era of film. If 80’s films don’t interest you, consider looking somewhere else.

While I don’t meet the target audience, the jokes land and provide an enjoyable horror comedy feel. My Best Friend’s Exorcism focuses more on comedy than horror, but this remains a common trend in horror comedies.


The performances remain strong throughout, with leads Elsie Fisher and Amiah Miller pulling off that best-friend chemistry. The cast purposely captures that 80’s nostalgia. Added to the campy nature of the film, one might grow irritated with the acting choices. For me, it certainly fits with the tone and setting.

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Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings

Drug use might deserve a mention on this list. While I don’t find this egregious, I imagine this point, or some other technicality, earns the film its undeserved R-rating.

The possession lends itself as a rape allegory, with some characters even believing this to be the trauma Gretchen Lang suffers from. While this isn’t the case, the conversation remains for those who want to avoid such material.

Body horror describes a few scenes of the film, though sparingly. However, one scene convinces me to bring this up for those who get squeamish at the cracking of bones or slimies in the body.

A character is tricked into outing themselves and faces some homophobia because of it. This homophobia is rightfully taken as cruel, not condoned in the slightest, but it remains potentially triggering and deserves mention here.

Two girls sit on a bed, looking at each other. Flower wallpaper in the background.
Elsie Fisher as Abby Rivers (Left) and (Amiah Miller as Gretchen Lang (Right)

What I Dislike, or Food for Thought on My Best Friend’s Exorcism

This film seems to earn its R-rating off some technicality. It is neither raunchy nor gruesome for those expecting that from their R-rated horror films. For me, it’s more an issue of setting expectations. I expect my R-rated horrors to hit hard. My Best Friend’s Exorcism doesn’t.

It would be unfair to expect something like Jennifer’s Body, as this is a lighter and zanier film. There are elements of sisterhood and bodily autonomy that echo the cult classic, but My Best Friend’s Exorcism remains an entirely campier affair.


In terms of performances that lack the intended impact, three over-the-top anti-drug spokesmen outstay their welcome. It’s clearly a jab at D.A.R.E., which certainly works in increments, but then one character becomes an important part of the plot and still keeps his caricature.

Final Thoughts

My Best Friend’s Exorcism fits the taste of an 80’s horror comedy fan. Don’t expect to be frightened at any point, but the comedy lands well enough. The film knows its niche and hits most of its targets. It’s hard to say if the film will stand the test of time, but it certainly earns its runtime.
3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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Movies n TV

American Horror Story Delicate, Rockabye



There’s a lot to unpack from this episode of American Horror Story Delicate, Killer Queens, so I don’t want to waste any time. I just want to take a moment and issue a trigger warning. This episode, and therefore this review, talks about several topics that might be upsetting. These include abuse, pregnancy trauma and miscarriage. It’s heavy. If you’re not up for that, here’s a link to my review of Tucker and Dale, which is considerably lighter and funnier.

The story

Our episode starts with Anna trying to get the police to take her seriously about the break-in. There’s just one problem. No one was seen coming in or out of the apartment except Dex. No one shows up on any of the security footage. The police are convinced it’s just Anna’s IFV medication making her see things.

But Anna doesn’t have time to think about the break-in. She’s just been nominated for a Gotham award, and she needs to get into full Awards Show mode. Siobhan gives her something she calls B12 and tells her that her life now revolves around awards prep.

But Anna’s whole life can’t revolve around that, because she’s pregnant now. Even though she seems to be losing time. Like, weeks at a time without even realizing it.


Things just get stranger when she’s at the Gotham Awards and accosted by an overzealous fan in the bathroom. After the woman puts her hands on Anna’s stomach, she knocks her over and the woman hits her head on the sink.

Rather than aiding the woman, Anna goes out to accept her award.

Or does she? After throwing up blood on stage, she finds herself back in the bathroom, being helped up by paramedics.

Everyone agrees that Anna needs some rest and space to heal. So she and Dex go to Talia’s house in the country. There, of course, everything gets much worse. Anna starts to bleed after a yoga session and is taken to the hospital. There, she gets an ultrasound by Nurse Ivy. A nurse that no one else knows at the hospital.

Cara Delevingne in American Horror Story Delicate.

Sadly, the bleeding doesn’t stop. And as we end the episode, it appears that Anna has lost her baby.

What worked

Emma Roberts is doing a fantastic job playing Anna. Proving as always that American Horror Story actors are nothing if not flexible. I find myself wanting to compare Anna to Madison Montgomery from AHS Coven. They’re both actresses who experience abuse from men that one might, sadly, expect for women in their station and age range. Madison is gang-abused by frat boys, and Anna has her autonomy taken away from her as soon as a baby is in question.


That’s where the similarities stop. Can you ever imagine Madison saying, “You’re right, I’m sorry,” to literally anyone? She’d have snapped a man’s neck first. Anna’s body language, voice modulation, and the overall way she carries herself in the world is so different.

This is also part of what makes her relatable. I imagine many of the female-presenting people reading this can remember a time when we’ve said, you’re right, I’m sorry when they were wrong and we weren’t sorry at all.

Maaz Ali in American Horror Story Delicate.

I also really loved the amount of blood in this episode. There is so much blood involved in being a cisgender woman. It’s something we take for granted, but shy away from when in polite company. There was no shying away here. We’re made to see all of it. I don’t think the amount of blood in the miscarriage scene was overkill at all. If anything, it wasn’t enough.

Finally, it’s a small point but one that I appreciated. I bet you already know the one I’m talking about. When Anna is overjoyed to get to wear the same dress once worn by Madonna, Siobhan reminds her in a stern voice not to rip it.

If you didn’t get the joke, look up Kim K and an incident with the iconic Marilyn Monroe dress. I do appreciate anyone who can poke fun at themselves.

The reference to ‘don’t rip it’ with the dress was fun. I hate Kim K and her whole family, but that was funny.


What didn’t work

I’m honestly struggling to find anything in this episode that didn’t work. If I had to pick out something I didn’t like, it was probably that we got the barest cameo from Zachary Quinto. I really hope we get to see more of him as the season progresses.

Another thing I don’t like overall is the character Siobhan. I mentioned this last week, and I’ll try not to mention it again because I don’t see it changing. But the character in the show is a bare reflection of the one in the book.

Siobhan in the book was a loving, selfless friend. Which made the ending, well, let’s say impactful to avoid spoilers for both AHS and Delicate Condition. This version, if she continues as she is, is not going to have the same effect.

I’m also quite done hearing the internet swoon over what a great job Kim K is doing. She’s been acting her entire life, I’d be surprised if she wasn’t good at it. And she’s doing no better or worse than many other guest stars have done in the past seasons of American Horror Story. She’s not bad. But she wouldn’t be getting the credit she is if she wasn’t who she is.

Overall, this was a great episode. It was equal parts funny, gory and infuriating. At this point, my only real complaint is that there are only three episodes left until a season break. But now that the writing strike is over, hopefully the break won’t be too long.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Cadaver (2020), a Film Review

Cadaver (2020) is a Norwegian post-apocalyptic thriller directed by Jarand Herdal and currently available on Netflix.



Cadaver (2020) is a Norwegian post-apocalyptic thriller directed by Jarand Herdal. This unrated film stars Thorbjørn Harr, Gitte Witt, and Thomas Gullestad. As of this review, the film is available on Netflix.

After an apocalyptic event, the survivors endure in a hopeless world. Among these survivors are Leonora (Gitte Witt), Jacob (Thomas Gullestad), and Alice (Tuva Olivia Remman), a family fighting the hopelessness of a lost world. Leonora desires to keep her daughter (Alice) hopeful, and when a theater opens in their decrepit city, she thinks she has found the solution to their despair. However, they will all soon learn how desperate people have become.

Golden masks hanging on meat hooks over a dark background. Below reads: "Netflix: Cadaver."
Cadaver Netflix Promotional Art

What I Like from Cadaver

Cadaver takes on a unique focus for a post-apocalyptic movie. While most in the genre tackle the question of where you find hope, the theatrical lens is not one I’ve seen before. It blends these two unique environments together for a pleasant concoction. As a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, I must admit I find my niche in the everyday lives of someone in such a world.

Leonora’s (usually called Leo in the film) dreamer nature in this horrendously hopeless environment creates a sympathetic contrast. This dreamer nature doesn’t excuse some of her choices, but she evokes sympathy. While most post-apocalyptic entries provide this balance of hope and survival, Leo’s creativity and passion for the arts give her hope and a more focused ideal.

The relationship between Leo and her husband also creates a nice contrast, as Jacob plays the rationalist and survivor. In this decision, both characters provide that post-apocalyptic dynamic of survival and hope. These interactions allow both actors opportunities to create friction as they pull the plot from their differing perspectives.


I had the chance to listen to the dubbed version, which sounds good. I’m not much for dubs, especially on Netflix, but they did Cadaver with respect and a focus on quality. At the very least, it’s competent and doesn’t distract from the viewing experience.

White background, rubber stamp with disclaimer pressed against the white background.
Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings

As hinted at earlier, there are some dumb decisions in the plot. While many fall within character traits, the actions don’t escape criticism. This flaw becomes incredibly repetitive when characters make the same mistake.

Implied suicide occurs throughout the film with one shown incident, but there are circumstances that change the context slightly. A world this bleak invites this depressive and dangerous state as a normality. However, one should prepare if this is a trigger.

A girl to the left most side holding her mother's hand. Their father walking on the right most side. All wear golden masks as they walk a hallway.
Cadaver Family

What I Dislike or Considerations for Cadaver

Again, some decisions had me roll my eyes and endure the plot. This reaction isn’t exactly the experience I seek out in my horror. It’s more haunting to make sensible, or even intelligent, decisions and still endure unavoidable or unforeseen consequences.

It’s likely that nothing in Cadaver surprises you, which underutilizes the interesting premise. There are unique elements, certainly, but never a twist I didn’t see coming. It’s in that execution that Cadaver falls flat and fails to engage a viewer.

The film doesn’t exactly haunt the viewer, but the bleak world effectively depicts the hopelessness of a post-apocalypse. Don’t expect much genuine horror, but you can expect an appropriately uncomfortable and unnerving experience. In short, viewers of Cadaver likely want a unique twist in their post-apocalypse, not a traumatic horror.

Final Thoughts

Cadaver remains a unique viewing experience by adding a slight twist to its post-apocalyptic story. While not a haunting masterpiece, this bleak film will have you feeling the characters’ struggle. While lacking sensible decision-making skills, they are certainly sympathetic survivors struggling in a hopeless world. If this is your niche, it’s certainly worth a view.
3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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