Cult or midnight movies are usually not known or recognized by mainstream audiences for good reason. They are usually the anti-thesis of the big, glossy Hollywood blockbusters. Midnight movies are usually gritty, subversive films catering to underground audiences who are looking for something different than the same old big-name flicks the studios peddle. Though most of the time these films have low budgets, they make up for that in heart and soul. Midnight movies let the audience experience something more than what studio films offer. They have that something extra that pushes the envelope, whether their aim is to disgust, titillate, awe or just plain have fun!
To put it plainly, midnight movies hold a special place in many a fan’s heart, no matter how cheap, cheesy or sleazy they are. So when I sat down to watch a film called “Midnight Movie” after our beloved cult flicks, I was a bit skeptical that it could deliver the goods. The synopsis did sound promising, though. From the box:
“At a run-down theater in a sleepy suburban town, a group of friends attend the midnight screening of a 1970’s cult horror film. These unsuspecting teenagers are unaware that the director and star of the movie made a bloody escape from a psych ward five years earlier and may still be on the loose.If that doesn’t peak a horror fan’s interest, I don’t know what will! Much to my delight and utter fascination, Midnight Movie pays homage to the cult film while at the same time creating a completely original story. Along with the original plot, the film boasts likable characters, enough twists to keep things interesting and a very scary killer! I was blown away by how quickly I was sucked into the world of Midnight Movie and once there I didn’t want to leave!
As the midnight movie begins, the kids heckle the old black-and-white scenes. But they are jolted when the killer butchers one of their friends…on screen! They soon realize that the killing is not a prank. They are locked inside the theater and the killer from the movies is after them!
Caught between reality and the screen’s flickering shadows, are they becoming the unwilling stars of the very horror movie they are watching?”
First off, the film looks absolutely amazing! I’m not sure what the budget was, but the film is so clean, crisp and professional-looking that it could be put in theaters tomorrow and no one would bat an eyelash! The production values are extremely high, including the direction, cinematography and editing.
The direction, by Jack Messitt (who also wrote the script) is tight and shows us the story exactly how it was meant to be seen. I never felt like I was missing anything and everything was shown just enough to titillate without going overboard. I also loved how the film’s style switched from the colorful, modern day point-of-view to the film-within-a-film’s point of view of a gritty ‘70s, black and white horror flick.
As the modern-day world and the horror-film world begin to collide, we the audience understand that this is no standard slasher, but a highly original script, penned by Jack Messitt. Messitt weaves supernatural elements into the story that tie everything together and make the story very unique. There are echoes of other films, like Demons (being stuck in a theater with no way out), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the ‘70s style midnight movie is very reminiscent of the seminal TCM), Ringu (with the idea that a supernatural force is able to get you even through a television/movie screen) as well as being influenced by many slasher films. These familiar styles are reconfigured in a new, unique way and combined with an original story had me glued to the screen for the entire running time!
The characters are also developed adequately enough (without sacrificing the quick clip of the pacing) that the audience can sympathize with them. I did feel that the girls were a bit stereotypical (why is it always the girls in movies who don’t like scary movies?), but that’s a small quibble compared with the overall achievement of the film. Messitt even managed to create a new icon of horror with his spooky, skull-mask wearing psycho killer. It just doesn’t get any better than this!
Even the acting, which I can usually find some fault in, especially in independent productions, was top-notch, with every single one of the actors delivering big time. Even the actors who didn’t get that much screen time did a commendable job with their characters. Let’s put it this way, if I began mentioning names, I would have to go down the entire cast list to credit every single actor for a brilliant performance.
Now, I know you are all wondering about the blood and guts in the film, but first I must mention the iconic tool of terror that the killer does his dirty deeds with. It’s a razor sharp hand drill that must be seen to be believed! With this device of destruction the killer leaves some nicely bloody and gaping holes in his victims. Despite the killer weapon, don’t expect loads of gore in this film…it is restrained, but with good reason. The audience is teased with the kills in the beginning and much is left to the imagination (which is the preferred method, if you ask me). As the body count mounts, though, things begin to escalate and get bloodier and bloodier. There is a very rich scene featuring a human slaughterhouse of sorts where the killer stores all his victims. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!
I gotta say, Midnight Movie blew me away with its smart, engaging script and the iconic horror movie villain we’ve all been waiting for! It certainly lives up to its moniker and is certain to make midnight cult movie fans very happy! For me, Midnight Movie is definitely one of the best films I’ve seen all year!
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