Saturday, November 8, 2014

Midnight



Midnight Directed By John Russo, Starring Melanie Verlin (1982).

I first saw the poster for this film in Tom Savini's Grande Illusions. I would pour over that incredible book, read it cover to cover and then feel sick afterwards from the macabre-ness, but I always came back for more. At that age (I was probably 12), I just started my addiction to gore movies and horror special effects, after first seeing the poster in the book, it dawned on me that this John Russo film has eluded me for a long time. I'm not sure why I never checked it out, because it has all kinds of talented people related to the world of George Romero. You've got Tom Savini, Bill Hinzman, John Amplas and writer/director John Russo, who along with Hinzman famously played a walking corpse in a certain seminal 1968 film about the undead. It even has Lawrence Tierney as a lecherous, incestuous cop.
   Maybe I avoided it because somehow I knew it could never live up to that ghastly poster. Midnight is pretty cheesy and I had high hopes for the film, but I guess my intuition was sharp because it's totally weak.

   Nancy, a Catholic girl who looks like a butch lesbian 80's McDonalds crew worker is having major problems with staying faithful to her religion. Melanie Verlin who plays Nancy later on showed up in Monkey Shines. Sometimes when Nancy wears a vest and lady suit she looks like Robin Zander from Cheap Trick.


The Dream Police, NAH NAH NAH NAH NAH NAH

   Her stepfather played by Tierney, is a drooling creepy perv who almost gets into her 
high-wasted pants, but is knocked out by a minuscule boombox (he must have a fontanelle that hasn't harden over from birth still on top of his head). We also get a Satanic cult who think anyone not in their flock is a Demon and should be put to death. This concept would later be taken for Bill Paxton's Frailty, with more effective results. 

I love this Church of Satan home kit for tweens

   The awkward children (one has a Sharpie pentagram drawn on her forehead) are priceless. There's migraine inducing tropical incidental music that reminds me of the scene in Hardcore when they play the snuff film and crank up that weird Mexicali soundtrack.

   After Nancy is almost raped by her stepdad, who's a cop, she starts hitching a ride. Midnight makes it seem like the highways are crawling with drooling men in search of jailbait and maybe they were in 80s Pittsburgh. Two dudes in a van named Hank and Tom offer to take her to California and she gets in. There's this hokey montage song that sounds like a female Jimmy Buffet. This state must have some of the worst cheap local bands in the U.S.! (case in point, the lounge vocals found later on the Day of the Dead score). So far the most horrific aspect of this film is the music! They fill up at a gas station where a black preacher (Bob Johnson) and his daughter (Lachele Carl) warn them not to stop, because dead bodies have been popping up around town. The poor preacher goes to visit his wife's gravesite and is attacked by a giant fat guy in plaid and overalls.
There's also a bunch of racist hillbillies that fuck around with the van because Hank, one of the passengers is black. This film's alternate title was Backwoods Massacre (which would've been a great way to cash in on some of that Leatherface money)! The poor excuse for Gunnar Hansen in this film is the ludicrous Cyrus, who wields a big knife and is about as terrifying as Larry The Cable Guy.
   
Whatta Hipster Doofus


Atheists crave the noncommittal taste of Dr. Pepper


   It turns out Hank and Tom are grocery thieves who go shopping then not pay. They are about as badass as Pee Wee Herman's convict friend Mickey, who got arrested for cutting off the label on a mattress. Nancy is their accomplice, but doesn't condone the robbery, she's so fucking pious. They outrun the police and almost crush Cyrus the fat galoot who murdered the preacher and drowned his daughter. He hides out in the shadows in the forest and when he laughs, one character thinks it's a hyena. 


I'm glad this game of strip poker is progressing along very slowly


   Abraham (John Amplas) and his brother Luke (Greg Besnak) who has a sweet handlebar mustache show up as a fake cops who pin the murders on the dudes from the van. The travelers end up dead by these redneck pigs and Nancy gets abducted and put in a dog crate. It's all a set up because the two cops and the fat mongoloid are all related in a Texas Chainsaw style family. The Savini effects are pretty much non existent, which is seriously disappointing.
For the last time I don't know Bun E. Carlos

   At midnight something crazy happens--excited? Something might happen in this film! The kids from the beginning are the Chainsaw-esque family, they sacrifice victims and feed the blood to their mother. The mom is a John Dugan as Grampa ancient living corpse type (the make-up is so lame that the dead women in Don't Go in the House outshine whichever make-up artist actually worked on this (I cant imagine Savini really handled the effects)!
I would say this is a Nightmares in a Damaged Brain scenario where he was on the set briefly and told the effects crew what to do, but all the Romero people are involved. I can't figure out why Midnight is so dull, it's watchable in a train wreck sort of way, but sad because I respect the people who made it. 

here let me brush your teeth with cold steel

   John Amplas and Lawrence Tierney can do no wrong in my book and bring some life to this flavorless piece of work. Nancy incessantly prays in her dog cage and wonders if "God is testing her faith". The satanic prayers from the ghouls and her heavenly ones start intersecting. One girl tries to mock her faith, which only makes her believe more. Nancy's dad shows up to rescue her, but it's funny because we all know his intentions are impure. I've seen so many limp wristed bubblegum movies on Satanism lately, somebody out there recommend a good one already or I might give up on the sub genre all together! Speaking of Bubblegum metal there's a great one-man band that sounds exactly like Venom called Midnight, check them out!

    There was actually a Midnight 2 that came out in 1993, also written and directed by Russo.  John Russo even has a Kickstarter video to remake the original Midnight, which will include Gwar (obviously Oderus will be there in spirit). Even though this film is clunky, it seems like Russo used most of the budget to pay Tierney, maybe it just needs a do-over?


Is that Tarantino on the line?

    In any case I support Russo, maybe he can pull it off, or it could be some kind of George Lucas obsession that should be buried forever and not receive a green light. My favorite thing about Midnight was the poster art and some of the actors like Amplas and Tierney, the rest was pretty forgettable. I hate to bad mouth this film, because it's made by people I respect and admire but I can't give it a positive review. The same thing happened to me with Deathdream, which didn't impress me or Skunkape all that much and we both wondered what other people saw in it. It's all subjective though, check out Midnight for yourself and see what you think.



2 comments:

  1. As an old dweller in "The 'Burgh" this is one of the few films I didn't see back in the day, so I've yet to view the original let alone look forward to a remake, but yeah, I hope he can get it off the ground. I had a few friends who were in those local films of Romero, Hardman, Russo, et al either in front of or behind the cameras. Personally, I would love to be living in Western Pa. again; it always seemed like a friendlier place for anybody wanting to do something creative.

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  2. I really wanted to like Midnight, and maybe if I saw it in the videotape age maybe I would've had a soft spot for it, but it just doesn't work.

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