After Hours, the first collaboration between director Michael Aguiar of Bravestar Productions and writer Adam Weber, take a simple concept and keeps it creepy all the way through. The synopsis is straightforward enough: an employee of a local store finds herself being stalked by someone or something after hours. It’s really not about the employee, but the cop investigating what happened to her.
However, it’s the way in which After Hours is put together that really makes it come to life. Bill Oberst Jr. as Detective Harris is a stone-faced kind of cop and delivers Weber’s dialogue in a “Just the facts, ma’am” manner which gives him an air of being absolutely by the book. It’s restrained, but not wooden because Oberst’s eyes are so expressive, even a scene of the actor eating grapes and looking at a laptop screen becomes worthwhile viewing.
Oberst is a genre workhorse and has appeared in more films, shorts, and TV shows than one can count. Aguiar makes effective use of his talents and allows the actor to really own After Hours, such that it almost turns into a one-man show of sorts. All the other actors — even Gabriel Lee’s solid work as Detective Cordova — are really here for Oberst to play off of.
The way in which director of photography William Schweikert shoots After Hours also lends a lot to the success of the short. The sequences in the dark are lit well enough to allow the viewer to know what’s going on but still obscures the details enough to keep things terrifying. It’s especially true in After Hours’ opening scene, wherein Tracy Decresie’s Louise is tracked by someone in the store, and the myriad mannequins and dressmaker’s forms lend the possibility that someone or something could be around any corner.
In what seems like the strangest of details, when Harris walks into his home, he pours himself a drink, and rather than it being scotch or bourbon — standard weary cop liquor — it is, instead, Viking Blod. It’s a rather obscure Danish mead, made in limited quantities, and only by careful examination is it revealed. It’s the kind of detail which will make certain viewers cock an eyebrow, and certainly gives Oberst as Harris a level of detail which most short films don’t even consider.
After Hours is a wonderful short, and definitely worth a look. It’s making the rounds on the festival circuit now.