Thursday, January 9, 2014

Midnight Movie (2008)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

A disturbed director, writer, and actor named Ted Radford (Arthur Roberts) is consumed by an unnatural obsession for his cult classic horror movie. Radford is a patient at Safe Haven, a mental institution, and Radford’s doctor plans to cure him with a personal screening of his movie.

Radford’s doctor ignores warnings from Dr. Wayne (Michael Swan). The doctor forces Radford to confront his fears with a private screening for his movie, The Dark Beneath, a black and white slasher film about a group of teenagers unknowingly wandering into a farmhouse and the clutches of a ruthless killer (Radford), but the one night only screening takes a drastic turn for the worst, when Radford snaps. Radford chews through his own skin, and Radford murders everyone in the hospital. Dr. Wayne returns to discover the massacre, and to make matters worse, Radford escaped Safe Haven without leaving a trail.

Five years later, a small town prepares for a showing of The Dark Beneath at the local movie theater. On the staff, Bridget (Rebekah Brandes) is in charge with Rachael (Brea Grant) and Kenny (Shaun Ausmus) rounding out the support team. Kenny is obsessed with the possibility of becoming a manager, Rachel is more worried about her nails, and Bridget is forced to keep a close eye on her younger brother, Timmy (Justin Baric).

Out of curiosity, Dr. Wayne shows up to watch The Dark Beneath, and Detective Barrons (Jon Briddell) is hoping for a Radford sighting. Detective Barrons is obsessed with Radford’s case, and he won’t pass up a golden opportunity to arrest him.

Before the show starts, Bridget’s boyfriend, Josh (Daniel Bonjour) convinces Bridget to watch the movie with their friend, Mario (Greg Cirulnick), his girlfriend, Samantha (Mandell Maughan), and the local movie buff, Sully (Michael Schwartz), so Bridget leaves Kenny in charge as the temporary manager. In the theater, Dr. Wayne, Detective Barrons, Harley (Stan Ellsowrth), and his girlfriend, Babe (Melissa Steach) anticipate the special screening of The Dark Beneath.

During the early stages of the movie, the group realizes something is wrong after a string of mysterious disappearances. The group is stuck inside the theater with blocked exits, and the remaining survivors learn the truth together: Radford is using the movie as a gateway into the real world, and he won’t stop until everyone inside the theater is dead. As the killer, Radford stalks his victims with his trusty weapon (a big corkscrew), and the survivors are running out of time and options. How do you stop a supernatural killer, who uses the real world and the movie world as playgrounds for his killing sprees?

You’ll see a lot of clich├ęd characters in Midnight Movie. Bridget is the innocent and pure protagonist, Mario is the cowardly jerk in the group, Sully is the nerd, who everyone picks on, and Josh is the fearless voice of reason. Harley? He’s the foul-mouthed biker/tough guy, who’s not afraid of a fight. Babe compliments Harley’s character, Samantha is just eye candy for the most part, and Timmy is the quiet and scared little kid. The performances range from decent to mediocre, and I didn’t see one true standout performance worthy of individual recognition from this cast.

The killer? I have mixed feelings about him. On one hand, the killer/Radford is creepy. He’s wearing dirty overalls, his mask is clearly made of parts from a human skull, and he drags one mangled and broken leg behind him during the chase scenes. And the corkscrew was a nice change for a weapon, because we’ve seen enough machetes, knives, and axes in other slasher films throughout the years.

The bad side? The killer/Radford IS creepy, but he’s not intimidating. That’s a big difference. After a quick look, you get the impression the killer MIGHT weigh 115 pounds soaking wet, so he’s too scrawny. The twisted leg is a cringeworthy sight. I won’t deny that, but if we’re going to bring suspension of disbelief into this, I’m supposed to believe healthy people with NO leg problems at all can’t outrun this limping stick figure? Come on now.

Who’s the sole survivor? If you guessed, Bridget AND Timmy, you’re wrong, because Timmy is the sole survivor. How does it happen? Well, after a face-off with the killer, Josh figured out the source of the killer’s powers: fear. The killer feeds off everyone’s fears in the theater, and he uses their fears to smoke his victims out of their hiding spots. Prime example, during the confrontation with Josh, the killer chased a petrified Timmy in the ventilation ducts, leaving Josh alone. Why? Because Josh was ready for a fight, and he wasn’t afirad of the killer, so the killer didn’t have any power over him.

Anyway, as the sole survivors, Bridget and Timmy are running towards the gateway into the real world after Timmy murdered the killer‘s deranged mother to save Bridget, but there’s one big problem: the movie is moments away from rolling the credits. As the selfless big sister, Bridget scarifies herself to save Timmy. “The End” pops up on the screen, and Bridget tosses Timmy into the real world. Timmy is safe, but Bridget and the killer’s victims are trapped in the movie with no chance of an escape.

Nice surprise. A finale with Bridget and Timmy escaping together was the ideal foregone conclusion scenario in my mind, but Midnight Movie throws a curveball at you with Bridget sacrificing herself. Also, during Bridget and Timmy’s trip into The Dark Beneath, you get an inside look at the killer’s lair. The mutilated victims from the theater are stuck in limbo, because the movie reel is still running in the real world. In the barn, the killer stores all of his victims together. Everyone is still alive and suffering, and the victim’s bodies are strewn about the barn in this eerie and diabolical tapestry. Nasty stuff.

Plot holes? Oy vey. Sorry, but it’s hard to ignore them, because one word constantly popped in my mind throughout the film: why? Why is Radford/the killer invincible? Gunshots have no effect on him? Why are all the exits blocked? NOBODY from the outside world can see inside?

There’s a confusing scene with a cop standing outside next to Harley’s motorcycle at the entrance to the theater. Everyone is banging on the door, the cop has a flashlight, and he’s looking inside for Detective Barrons. When the camera shows the cop’s POV, there’s nothing inside. On the flip side, when you see everything from the survivor’s POV, they can see the cop, the outside world, and Harley’s motorcycle? I don’t get it. Clearly, I can see everything happening as the viewer, but Midnight Movie never took the time to explain the reasons behind the supernatural side of this film, so you have to assume everything.

With all that said, I still enjoyed Midnight Movie. Yes, the plot holes are annoying and frustrating, but it’s a double-edged sword for me. Midnight Movie deserves credit for taking the chance to be something different. So many lazy low-budget slashers rely on tons of bloody gore, sex, and nudity for cheap thrills, but Midnight Movie doesn’t take the easy way out. You’ll see a handful of gruesome kills (i.e. Josh’s death) and nasty moments (the scene where Samantha’s fingers are stuck in the window, and the aftermath of the killer snatching her corpse from the window……ouch)  in Midnight Movie, but Midnight Movie never reaches an overkill point.

Midnight Movie is a bold slasher with an authentic old school feel to it, and when both worlds collide, you’re sucked into a nightmarish deathtrap. There’s a chance you’ll have mixed feelings for the movie within a movie approach, but if you love horror and old school slashers, Midnight Movie is worth a try.

Rating: 6/10

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