d. Jack Messit / 2008 / USA / 82 mins
Low budget, independent genre pics are a notoriously difficult thing to get right. Midnight Movie doesn’t quite achieve that winning formula, but it is a valiant enough effort.
I’ll admit to having a soft spot for this film based purely on its central conceit – a crazed killer springs into action every time his directorial opus is screened, trapping punters in the cinema from hell as they unwittingly watch their fellow audience members killed one by one. In this vein, the early scenes of Midnight Movie are unsurprisingly populated by lame gags about the cinemagoing experience, which not only fail to raise a chuckle, but simply seem like lazy attempts at forming some kind of intertextuality for the slasher pic within a pic to come.
And if the dialogue wasn’t bad enough, narrative-wise Midnight Movie is held loosely together by flimsy plot twists and ill-judged (and confusing) attempts at building a backstory. And much of the key imagery seems to have been cherry-picked from a swathe of more successful horror films; from the Jigsaw-meets-Leatherface baddie, to his distinctly Wolf Creek-ish torture crypt.
Then again, when we’re talking about a low-budget horror flick about filmgoing, which features a film within a film – and which may or may not take place entirely within someone’s twisted mind – it’s hard to ascertain exactly where plagiarism ends and tribute/parody begins. Besides, there are actually some clever ideas in here and a handful of interesting (if cheesy) set-pieces; a tricky double-bluff featuring the foyer doors as our friends attempt to escape from the killer, is matched only by the film-strip jumping back to life and righting its upended projector so that the killer can continue on his massacring way.
Despite a few glimmers of hope, however, Midnight Movie never really manages to reconcile the sum of its parts, with a disappointing conclusion aptly reflecting the relatively unremarkable whole.