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Midnight Movie (2008)
DVD Released: 6/14/2011
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/15/2011
You know what people who love movies love? Movies. Of all of the subjects which can be tackled in a film, when fanboys get involved, they love to make movies about movies. And what's better than a movie about a movie? A movie set in a movie theater. Films such as Popcorn, Matinee, and Demons (even the opening of Scream 2) explore this idea, and inevitably there is some kind moment where the lines between the movie in the theater and the movie we're watching blur. (This is even explored in books, such as Clive Barker's story "Son of Celluloid".) At this point, a movie set in a theater doesn't feel very original, but Midnight Movie is actually able to pump some energy into this genre.
Midnight Movie opens on the psychiatric ward of a hospital where filmmaker Ted Radford (Arthur Roberts) is being held. Years ago, Radford make a movie called "The Dark Beneath" which drove him insane. Dr. Cashin (Christopher Page) feels that it will be therapeutic for Radford to watch the film, despite the protests of Dr. Wayne (Michael Swan). Once the movie begins, Radford suddenly disappears. The story then leaps ahead five years to a movie theater which is having a midnight screening of "The Dark Beneath". Theater employee Bridget (Rebekah Brandes) is joined by her boyfriend, Josh (Daniel Bonjour), who brings along his friend, Mario (Greg Cirulnick) and his girl, Samantha (Mandell Maughan). Movie-geek Sully (Michael Schwartz) also arrives. The only other patrons are a biker, Harley (Stan Ellsworth) and his girlfriend (Melissa Steach). Dr. Wayne and Detective Barrons (Jon Briddell) come to the theater, convinced that Radford may appear. Once the movie starts, a supernatural force overtakes the theater, and suddenly the killer from the movie (Lee Main) is loose in the theater. Unable to escape the movie house, the group must find a way to survive.
At first glance, Midnight Movie doesn't offer anything new. How many times have we seen a "people trapped in a ________ with a killer" movie? And the characters are all stereotypes; the damaged good girl, the burned-out cop, the horny guy, the biker, etc. The movie could easily be dismissed as simply being more direct-to-video filler.
However, Midnight Movie does just enough to set itself apart from the pack. Co-writers Jack Messitt (who also directed) and Mark Garbett have clearly studied the genre and added some nice tweaks to this tired subject matter. One would think that Midnight Movie would be a love letter to the Midnight Movie phenomenon of the 70s and early 80s (Before home video took over. I can remember that The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Dawn of the Dead, and Animal House would play every Friday night.), but it isn't. However, the film harkens back to the exploitation era of days gone by, as “Dark Beneath”, the movie within a movie, is a grainy black and white movie from the 60s. We know that this was made just for Midnight Movie, but Messitt has done a great job with it and it looks fairly authentic. The movie is, in its own way, sending a love letter to the old movie houses of the past, as the theater featured here is a classic one-screen job. (Can you imagine?)
The best move made by Midnight Movie is the involvement of the supernatural. While we can rip the movie for failing to explain any of what is happening (seriously, what was happening?), the movie benefits from the fact that the Radford from the movie who is pursuing the theatergoers is a supernatural being who can appear and disappear at will. The movie really gets creative when the events unfolding in the theater become part of the movie which is being screened. Yes, we’ve seen stuff like this before, but Midnight Movie presents it in a very clever way so that the victims in “reality” find their way into the movie. This doesn’t necessarily create much in the way of suspense or tension, but at least the movie is trying something a little different.
The one thing which didn’t impress me about Midnight Movie was the killer’s weapon. I don’t get it. What is that, an evil pine cone? And while some may not buy the movie’s Freddy Krueger meets Demons concept, I was pleasantly surprised by the movie and would be open to a sequel which further explained what was happening.
Midnight Movie makes one question if popcorn should be placed where the customers can reach it on DVD courtesy of Bigfoot Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only trace amounts of grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look fine, but the image is a bit dark at times. I didn’t note any major artifacting and for a DVD, the level of detail was pretty good and the picture didn’t show any distracting softness. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are fairly good, as they illustrate sounds happening off-screen. I didn’t catch an abundance of surround sound effects, save for musical cues. The subwoofer effects are somewhat lean as well.
The Midnight Movie DVD contains a handful of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Jack Messitt. In "Destroying the Illusion" (14 minutes) Messitt walks us through several key scenes. We watch on-set footage which Messitt gives us detailed information about how the scene was shot. The DELETED SCENES, which run about 3 minutes, consist of the actor who originally played Kenny before he was replaced due to scheduling issues. "Creative Team" (7 minutes) contains interviews with the director, writer, and producers who talk about the making of the film and how the project was put together. Meanwhile, "Cast" (8 minutes) has comments from the actors who talk about their characters. "A Storyboard Comparison" (8 minutes) has Messitt explaining how reshoots were done for the film and he shows how storyboards were created to illustrate what these new moments would look like. In "Storyboard/VFX" (7 minutes) we see how Messitt's storyboards compared to the finished film, and how certain effects were done. There is a 1 minute reel of OUTTAKES. Finally we have five TRAILERS for the movie.
(This DVD contains the “Killer Cut” of the film which reportedly includes new scenes and FX. Having not seen the original cut of Midnight Movie, I can’t comment on this.)
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2011.