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The Midnight Game (2013)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
DVD Released: 8/12/2014
All Ratings out of
Extras: No Extras
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/25/2014
Peruse any chat forum dedicated to horror movies and you're bound to find someone complaining about PG-13 horror films. For decades, scary movies were typically rated R and aimed at older teens and 20-somethings. (Any child of the 70s will remember the fast-paced TV spots for horror movies which concluded with a stern voiceover proclaiming "Rated R".) At the turn of the millennium, we began to see a change in this trend and a glut of PG-13 rated horror movies hit theaters. Hardcore horror fans decried this practice, as they felt that it diluted the product. Of course, movies likeInsidious proved that one could make a PG-13 film which was actually scary. This raises a question: Do some movies go out of their way to get an R-rating simply to draw a certain audience. This question came to mind while watching The Midnight Game.
As The Midnight Game opens, Kaitlan (Renee Olstead) learns that her mother is going away on business for the weekend. She invites her friends Jenna (Valentine de Angelis) and Rose (Shelby Young) over to spend the night. Unbeknownst to Kaitlan, Jenna tells Shane (Guy Wilson) and Jeff (Spencer Daniels) to come over. Kaitlan is mad at first, but she allows the boys to stay. Shane suggests that they play "The Midnight Game", which he discovered on-line. In this game, each participant has a candle and must keep it lit until 3:33am, or be inside of a ring of salt, lest "The Midnight Man" get them and make them face their darkest fears. The group reluctantly agrees to this and despite some odd noises and shadowy figures at the window, they make it to morning. However, they can't shake the feeling that something is still after them.
The Midnight Game is a movie which has no idea what it wants to be...save for a horror film. But, the question is, what kind of horror film is it trying to become? The movie is rated R, presumably for the language, teenage drinking and some very, very brief nudity. However, if those things were removed, this could have easily been a PG-13 film. In fact, The Midnight Game would have made a good entry into a Goosebumps-like series. The whole urban legend feel to "The Midnight Game" smacks of something which would be found in a YA anthology and the movie focuses more on attempting to be spooky and creepy than anything else. There is no gore here, and we are treated to some very light jump scares.
The real source of trouble here is the story itself. Based on an idea by Director A.D. Calvo and Brett A. Calvo which was then fleshed-out by Writer Rick Dahl (Brother of John Dahl), the plot here is very, very weak and lacking in much-needed detail and believability. The first few minutes of The Midnight Game feel legitimate, but it goes downhill after that. Shane arrives at Kaitlan's house very late at night and describes this incredibly convoluted game which seemingly has no point. Instead of saying, "Forget it, I'm going to bed.", everyone agrees to try it. Despite Shane's long explanation, the specifics of the game are never quite clear (Why 3:33am? Because that's half of 666?) and we don't get any information on "The Midnight Man". Rose sees a figure late in the movie which resembles a harlequin -- I guess that's supposed to be "The Midnight Man". The movie runs about 70-minutes before the credits, so they could have added a few minutes to give things more weight. Things really get jumbled in the second half of the movie, where the characters are supposed to be facing their greatest fears, but this all stays on the surface. The "twist" ending is nowhere near as clever as it thinks it is. In addition, the movie doesn't get much help from the fact that none of the characters are appealing.
As noted above, The Midnight Game has an identity crisis, and that means that it will have difficulty finding an audience. This is clearly aimed at teens looking for a thrill, but they won't find it very thrilling. It certainly won't hold any appeal to hardcore horror fans, as the movie is strictly horror-light. Along withHouse of Dust, this is the second film directed by A.D. Calvo this year. It's clear that the man has a passion for horror, but he still has a long way to go as a director.
The Midnight Game takes place in a world where the sun goes down very quickly and pizza takes a long time to arrives on DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only slight grain and no defects from the source materials. The daytime scenes look very good and the colors are nice, but some of the nighttimes scenes are too dark. The level of detail is notable, as the image is rarely soft. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The surround sound effects are very good and there were several moments where we were treated to multiple specific sounds coming from the rear channels. The stereo effects show good separation and they highlight sounds coming from off-screen. The subwoofer effects are effective, but lack the "oomph" we are used to.
The Midnight Game DVD does not contain any extra features.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long