Maybe it’s the remnants of the Jack the Ripper walking tour I did on my recent trip to London, but I have a longstanding love affair with crime drama and mysteries. After Nightfall, a new web series written by celebrated writer Wayne Tunks, seemed right up my alley, so I was quite excited to check it out. The night it premiered, I finally arrived home from acting class at 11pm, settled down with a bowl of pasta, and pressed play.
We all know the saying. If you want something done right, do it yourself. Australian artists are taking this to heart. Our industry is suffering enough with never-ending tax cuts and general indifference to the arts. Hence, artists have to be more creative than ever when it comes to sharing and constructing our craft. Here, the creators have funded this ambitious project with the tried-and-true method of crowdfunding, and we should all be thankful for every cent poured into this absolutely wonderful series.
After Nightfall follows the aftermath of a young gay teen, Troy McLeavey, brutally murdered in a small rural town. Everybody is a suspect. His parents. His boyfriend. His ex-boyfriend or his ghastly homophobic parents. His drug lord uncle. The school bully. Predatory members of the community. The investigators themselves. Maybe even the butler did it.
A deceptively simple premise, but from the very first frame, the message to the audience is clear: you are in for one hell of a ride.
The first episode of course goes about establishing the world, the story and the characters. Many key players are unnamed initially but the strength of the actors makes the viewer able to glean exactly what they’re about. Therefore, the relatively short moments give you an eerie sense of what’s to come. Many scenes have minimal dialogue, allowing for greater atmosphere and mystery. Are there clues peppered throughout the silent moments? It certainly seems that way to an eagle-eyed viewer, but only time will tell.
Episode 2…well, the short answer is, it’s great. Troy’s family begins their struggle with grief, and members of the town start behaving suspiciously. Washing blood from a shirt, seemingly innocuous comments, silent looks of anguish from new faces. What will this all lead to? Mercifully, I was not watching this with my older brother who has that infuriating habit of predicting twists and answers out loud, so I only have my own thoughts at this point.
How very refreshing it is to see contemporary Australian work that isn’t set in the outback, doesn’t involve either World War, and doesn’t scream 1950s. Instead, the series dives into real people in relatable situations. There’s no pretence here, just the straight up story and characters. The audience is treated as intelligent, thinking adults. Visual and silent moments, lingering camera shots draw you in further. There’s none of the dreaded tell-don’t-show, there’s no excessive expositional dialogue, the pacing is excellent and from a production/photography point of view, it’s highly impressive how the cinematography can maintain the hair-raising darkness without descending into Tim Burton territory.
After Nightfall stars a host of talented and unknown actors, but of course the real star here is the writing. My regular readers will know exactly how critical I am of bad writing, and I honestly can’t think of a single criticism here. The writing is nothing short of brilliant.
Tunks doesn’t shy away from the violent reality of the subject matter, but he isn’t afraid to show subtler sides of everyday suffering either. One particularly moving moment for me, being the daughter of a single mother, was the heartbreaking scene of a mother going without food to make sure her child can eat. I can’t remember the last time I saw something like that on screen, and yet it’s an every day occurrence for many.
I guess if I had to nitpick anything, and I mean ANYTHING, about After Nightfall, it’s that the timeline can seem a tad out of order. Yeah, it’s a small town where everybody knows everybody, but would the police really inform the family before the body of a murder victim is even examined? Still, this is the first two episodes, so I’m not going to worry too hard about that.
The biggest compliment you can give any piece of art is that you want more. And in all sincerity, that’s exactly what I want here. I want a LOT more from this world. I want to see what will happen next. I want to get to know these characters. I want to dive deeper into the town. Most of all, I want the question answered.
Who killed Troy McLeavey?
WATCH HERE: https://afternightfallseries.com/