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The Midnight Man (Movie Review)

The Midnight Man (Movie Review)
01.19.2018by: Mike Sprague
5 10

PLOT: On a snowy night in her grandmother’s sprawling mansion, teenage Alex and her best friend Miles discover a mysterious box hidden away in the attic. Inside are instructions for The Midnight Game, an ancient Pagan ritual said to summon the players’ greatest fears. It all seems like harmless fun—until they unleash the terrifying spirit of an unholy force who pits them against their darkest demons and dares them to survive.

REVIEW: A few months back we shared the trailer for THE MIDNIGHT MAN here on AITH and I was immediately intrigued. Not only did the film star Lin Shaye (INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY) and Robert Englund (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET) but the flick also sported rising scream queen Gabrielle Haugh (JEEPERS CREEPERS 3) and was directed by Travis Zariwny aka Travis Z, who helmed the... interesting recent remake of Eli Roth's CABIN FEVER. Needless to say, the film sports a fun collection of horror talent behind the scenes, so as quickly as I could I snagged up a screener of the film, slapped it on my big screen TV, turned out the lights, and cranked up the sound. Was I delivered the fright flick I expected? Well, let's get into that.

The film begins on a powerful note with a group of little kids playing The Midnight Man game back in the 1950's. One of the cooler aspects of this opening sequence is that one of the little whipper-snappers is played by Summer H. Howell, who you may recognize from her role as "the little girl" in Don Mancini's CURSE OF CHUCKY. But her cameo aside, the opening moments of the film are a blast. Not only do they adequately set up all the info we need to know regarding who and/or what The Midnight Man and his "game" is (so there should be no need to KEEP telling us the rules throughout the rest of the film, right?) but the opening also features some good-old shocking (and bloody) violence that had me cheering from my couch. This includes one of the most explosively bloody kills I have seen in quite some time.

After the killer opening bit, I was ready for the film to ruin me with good horror times for the next 80-ish minutes. But then it didn't. At all. I'm not going to be mean to this film as it sports some very professional aspects. But I'm not going to be kind to this lame and lazy film either. So let's start with the good. As I mentioned above the film stars genre legends, Lin Shaye and Robert Englund. I was a bit worried when I saw the film's trailer that the two thespians would be little more than cameos in this kinda low-budget film. But worry not: Englund, and especially Shaye, are in this film to win it. The two stars have adequate screentime and, thank God, never appear to be phoning it in. God bless these two A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET alums as they kept the film entertaining at all times - when they were on screen.

On top of that, the film sports slick directing and creepy-ass cinematography, both are as good as you can get, and the design, CGI, and make-up effects for the Midnight Man (and the kills) are also top notch. No complaints here. But that's about where the film stops being admirable in its "What if Jumanji was a horror movie without animals?" vibe and instead reveals itself to be a boring, roll-your-eyes affair. Standard teen horror fare masquerading as something more substantial. Which, taking in all of the solid aspects I mentioned above, makes the sour pill that the film is all the harder to swallow. For shame.

Anyhow, because it's my job, I'm now going to go into the aspects of the film that don't work. Chief among them is the script. And the chief reason among the many weak aspects the script puts forth is the plain and simple fact that (MINOR SPOILERS HERE) the film cheats. Straight up cheats. How much fun it that? Exactly. None. Why bother with (f*cking constantly) going over the rules of The Midnight Man and his so-called games if the evil entity, and I quote, "loves to cheat" and is "very good at it." Wait, what? The Midnight Man is "very good" at cheating?! Heaven help us.

But cheating script aside, the film still plays like it's using a first draft. Not a bad first draft, but a first draft nonetheless. I assume someone put it out before it was quite ready and it was sold before anyone had the chance to give it a polish. Must have been that spook-a-boo rollercoaster beginning that sold the film. Guess the producers didn't bother reading past those first few pages. On top of all of that, the film just ends. You know what I mean. Have you ever been watching a flick and it fades to black and you're waiting for it to continue but then - "what the hell?" - credits begin to roll?? I call shenanigans on this film! Shenanigans, I say! But I guess I shouldn't complain, considering at least the film was over by that point.

In the end, THE MIDNIGHT MAN is a film your nieces and nephews will enjoy the hell out of. It's spooky and bloody, but ultimately silly and a slap in the face to those paying attention to the rules of the world and the games played within. Not a terrible time at the movies - if only for the fun beginning sequence - but when all is said and done, this tale is a forgettable one. Case in point, my friend came over after I finished the flick and a mere half hour later she asked me what I had been doing earlier. It was only then I remembered I had watched this movie. True story. Make of that what you will. It's JUMANJI meets THE BYE-BYE MAN.

Extra Tidbit: The film hits select theaters, VOD and digital in the U.S. January 19, 2018.
Source: AITH

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