Monday, March 9, 2009

Midnight Movie

Midnight Movie is an unpretentious little supernatural slasher flick, made for roughly Prom Night’s catering budget. It doesn’t re-invent the genre, but I found it pretty enjoyable.

The MacGuffin of the film is a black & white horror film called The Dark Beneath, which drove its creator mad, and leads to horrifying death every time it is shown. Sort of the slasher version of Cigarette Burns. A small town theater has obtained a print of the film, and shows it at a special midnight screening. The theater is less than filled: there’s a biker, complete with biker chick, four students, and three employees, the retarded kid brother of the manager, a psychologist and the police detective who investigated a previous massacre involving the film. Hopefully, they’ll make some money on concessions.

Once the film begins, the patrons discover the killer from the movie, a limping creep with a half-skull mask and a killing implement that looks like a giant sharpened corkscrew, can leave the screen and kill them in the theater. When this happens, the others can watch it happen as part of the movie. Pretty soon, the body count is rising, and the dwindling number of survivors finds they are trapped in the theater, and must figure out how to kill a character in a movie to survive.

The movie clocks in at an economical 79 minutes, so the killing sequences don’t have enough time to become repetitious. The black & white sequences from the movie-within-the-movie look very good, better than the rest of the movie, actually, and I was sometimes disappointed when they cut away from it. Looks like it would have been an interesting popcorn film.

The one real weakness here is the kid brother. In the grand tradition of such things, he is as annoying as hell. I generally hate kids in horror movies, because it is so very rare that a kid gets killed, since that’s considered a taboo. It isn’t that I want to see kids killed (I am getting close with the neighbor kid with the skateboard), but it saps the scenes where the child is being chased of all the dramatic tension when you know the kid won’t buy it. I mean, really, if Jason couldn’t kill Corey Feldman, you’ve got to conclude that kids are safe. Even Final Girls have a higher mortality rate.

Despite this, the movie is pretty cool, a good example of how to tackle a familiar genre on a minimal budget.


John Hornor Jacobs said...

I can't imagine I might know something you don't - and I probably don't - but Cigarette Burns took its premise from a book by Robert W. Chambers, The King in Yellow, which I borrowed from heavily in SG.

Movies, plays, blues songs that make you fall into insane murderous rages are awesome.

KentAllard said...

The name of this blog was very nearly The Yellow Sign, but I figured I spend forever explaining what it meant.

It's possible that I'm the only person alive who liked Cigarette Burns; it's regularly listed as one of the least-liked episodes of MOH. By people who didn't see Dance of the Dead, I presume.

The Doctor said...

Actually, I get the opposite impression from reading reviews at places like bloody-disgusting and dreadcentral, i.e. that Cigarette Burns is one of the most liked episodes. Which is something I totally agree with. The nadir for me was that Argento one with the mutant woman who screwed everything that moved. I forget the name. But I think Argento redeemed himself somewhat with that Meatloaf episode ("Pelts"?).

KentAllard said...

That was the episode "Jennifer", which was fairly out there. I think there was a language problem, since Argento was working with an entirely English-speaking crew.

John Hornor Jacobs said...

My favorite MOH is Events On and Off a Mountain Road but I enjoyed Cigarette Burns, too. Though it was a bit much when the freaky collector began threading his guts through the projector.

I wish they'd explored the captive angel, shorn of his wings. That was a striking image.

Dammit, I should've know I didn't know something you already knew. Wait...I should've known that you already knew...

Fuck it.

KentAllard said...

You know plenty I don't know. I'm just the master of the impractical and useless.

I agree with you basically. Cigarette Burns is my favorite, with Incident a close second. My wife's favorite is Homecoming, I think for the scene where the Ann Coulter character gets shot in the head.