Midnight Movie (2008)




The "film within a film" sub-genre is yet another by product of the post-Scream, too smart for it's own good sometimes, world. Certainly there were "films within films" before the mid-90's, but the birth of the so called "intelligent" horror films, lent itself to the concept like peanut butter to jelly. The problem with these types of films it, more often than not, they try to be too cute for their own good. They try to be too clever, too "twisty," and often loose focus of the overall point of a film : to use a concise narrative to tell and entertaining story. Jack Messitt's Midnight Movie, well better than most of the films that slide down that slippery slope, still falls into that basic trap. Just because it sounds cool and looks cool, it doesn't mean that it's the best for conveying a story.

Bridget (Rebekah Brandes) manages a run down movie theater. You know, the kind you only find in small towns in movies. This particular theater specializes in showing only the lowest of the low in midnight B-Movies, simply because the theaters owner is too cheap to pony up some real dough for decent films. Tonight's film, The Dark Beneath, is a Texas Chainsaw Massacre-esque rip off that gained a bit of notoriety based on the rumors that the films creator, Ted Radford, went crazy and killed dozens of people at the insane asylum he was housed at the last time the film was show, Despite this notoriety though, there is the typical sparse crown for the theaters showing of the film. Bridgets boyfriend Josh (Daniel Bonjour) shows up, as do two their friends Mario and Samantha. They are joined by a biker Harley and his girlfriend, Babe, the police detective still investigating Radfords still unexplained mental hospital escape and one of the doctors who worked at the hospital. Simple enough tight? A little Lamberto Bava's Demons, but that's as good of a place as any to start.

The film starts to roll and things start out smoothly enough. The gang settles in for what they think is just another bad B-Movie. Then shit starts to get a little weird as they say. Folks in the theater start to pop up in the movie and conversely the killer in the film starts showing up in the movie theater. Predictably, in good slasher film form, people start getting offed in various gruesome ways. It takes a while but, the good guys finally realize what's happening and look to fight back.

Here's where the film gets a little wonky. The killer can bounce back and forth between the film and real life. Check. We are on board. He does so by sensing fear. A little thin, but we are still on board. Then everyone is dead? But not really. They are suspended in living/dead movie world somehow. And the little boy (yes there's a little boy) who is kind of dead int he film, has to jump out of the movie screen to save himself. What? Exactly. Wonky.

Bad third act aside, Midnight Movie isn't a bad film. There is a lot that it does right. The acting, which in most independence films is spotty at best, is more often than not, pretty good and Brea Grant (Heroes, Halloween II) shows up in one of her earlier roles. The effects are really good, although the blood is little more orange than I would like. Still, there is enough well done gore and red stuff to satiate most gore hounds out there.

Midnight Movie seems like one of those films where there were a lot of ideas flowing during the writing and development phase, and a lot of really cool ideas at that. At a certain point though a film just can't be a bunch of "cool ideas" strung together. A film has to create a comprehensible narrative. Midnight Movie is able to toe the cool idea/narrative line very well over an extremely entertaining first two acts. It's unfortunate that it can't sustain this delicate balance in it's third act, becasue up until the third act Midnight Movie is a really good, smart, new age slasher film.

Midnight movie is available on DVD and on Netflix. You should check it out. You may be more into the weirdness of the third act than I was. Either way, check it out and support indie film making!

***stars out of *****

As always...thanks for reading and "enjoy every sandwich"

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