The Midnight Game (Movie Review)

The Midnight Game (Movie Review)
6 10

PLOT: After playing a pagan ritual as part of a dare, a group of high school students find themselves trapped in an endless cycle of their worst fears.

REVIEW: Ahh, the old days. So many horror films seem to want to pay homage to the bygone era of the eighties- to revisit the schlocky, silly, exploitative expendable teen flicks that made us squeal in delight upon viewing a helpful dose of gore (or even better, a flash of skin). The Midnight Game from Anchor Bay seems to want to revisit the era of possession-styled films like Witchboard, or even the silliness of Sorority House Massacre. Does it succeed? Well, kind of. I'll warn ya though, you won't see much skin..or gore.

Mom takes off and skips town for the weekend, leaving Kaitlan (Renee Olstead) with the place to herself. Naturally, she decides to have her stereotypical pals Jenna (Valentine de Angelis) and Rose (Shelby Young) over for a slumber party.  Can you guess what comes next? Bad girl Jenna immediately gets on her cell and calls up potential boydudes Shane (Guy Wilson) and Jeff (Spencer Daniels) for a little fun. As things begin to develop, one of the boys insists the kids play The Midnight Game, an internet urban legend (or "Creepypasta") with a bunch of weird rules.

What happens if you break the rules outlined by the online video? Mess up any of these complicated instructions and the Midnight Man (a kind of funny looking, rarely seen harlequin character) will come to get ya, which causes you to "hallucinate your worst fears" until 3:33 in the morning (why? it's never really mentioned. I guess 6:66 isn't a possible option so you have to work with what you have). The kids immediately start talking about their worst fears, from ghosts, to falling, to insanity..there's a few things here to work with.

I'll be totally honest. This movie just wasn't made with me as its target audience in mind. I'm always up for a fun new urban legend flick, so long as whatever the forbidden thing is packs a good punch and manages to pay off. The thing about the Midnight Game is that it's a bit scattered in its presentation and tends to lack a bit in the scare department, which aims it squarely toward the high school crowd. It's almost always scary to tempt fate and call on the dark, but it all felt a bit uneven. I like the idea that the movie tries a bit to play on each friend's fear (one girl's mostly afraid of going insane, which tends to be the most fun, as it allows a lot of freedom for solid unsettling moments, and the victim's fear turns into intense, accusing paranoia).

The thing is, why in the hell would anyone agree to play this game? I get that the whole appeal is to drive the girls into the arms of the boys (who really come off like mean jerks in general), but couldn't they just have kept drinking their smuggled alcohol instead of tempting fate like this? One of the boys argues that a good reason to play is to test your ability to follow the rules..and if there's anything I know about teenagers, it's that they like following the rules.

As for the hell these kids go through, it can be a bit unsettling, but it's all lacking a bit of oomph, any real meat. This experience supposed to mess with their minds in the craziest ways possible, and the idea isn't fully explored, unfortunately. The scares can be described as pretty darn weak. The movie's going for subtlety, but it's almost a bit too subdued. If you like music stings (though the score is actually decent) and kinda cheap jump scares, you'll find them here. And also, most of the performances here tend to be pretty weak, aside from lead Renee Olstead.

Ultimately, The Midnight Game is a movie for the younger set. Clocking in at only a little over an hour long, it actually could have used a bit more time near the end to try to make a better connection for the movie's attempt at a bit of a twist ending. Our characters remain really quite underdeveloped (and super stereotypical), and the movie does play at something near the end but the abrupt shift to the final scenes was just a bit too jarring. Let's sum up. Are you 15 and looking for a fun time at the movies with your pals on your next Halloween sleepover? You can surely have a good time here. Are you a gorehound, someone looking for a great story, or great performances? Well, maybe not. This midnight terror is really just a passable, serviceable effort for its target audience- anyone else can skip this game.



Extra Tidbit: Director A.D Calvo's other horror films include House of Dust and The Melancholy Fantastic.



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