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Hal MacDermot [Film Festival 03.15.09] movie review horror

Year: 2008
Directors: Jack Messitt
Writers: Jack Messitt & Mark Garbett
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: cyberhal
Rating: 7 out of 10

Nice one Jack, Midnight Movie was an unexpected treat and great entertainment. Part modern grindhouse and part supernatural deconstructionist tongue in cheek postmodernist thingy, think Arnie’s Last Action Hero but way more Slasher. I like films like this because in addition to being loads of fun, they also remind me how the media of film, television and internet have blurred fact and fiction to the point where many people can’t even tell the difference. These medias do that conjuring trick without even the help of the supernatural. Do we see our lives on screen or is it the other way around? But I digress.

Ted Radford, star of 1970s gore movies, has been locked up for murder in a psychiatric hospital for forty years. Rather unwisely, his psychiatrist decides to show him the Dark Beneath, which was last horror film that Radford starred in. He reacts by killing 70 patients and staff, the bodies of whom are never found, and Radford vanishes… Cut to the present day, and a handful of people have gathered in a rundown old cinema, to watch the first showing of the Dark Beneath since the massacre. This small audience, who will soon be bound together by more that the aroma of melted butter on popcorn, consist of a few teens, a couple of staff, a big fat biker and his babe, and a psychiatric doctor and a detective both of whom hope the elusive Radford will show up.

So far, so average, but here’s where it gets fun. The Dark Beneath is this black and white flick where a bunch of kids in a van get lost and go knocking on the door of an isolated country house for help. My favourites were the LSD Blond and a frumpy girl who I swear was supposed to be Velma from Scooby-Doo. Cue Radford’s character in way cool skull and leather mask outfit, gimpy leg, and oh did I mention that is weapon is huge sharp corkscrew thing which he sticks into people and pulls bits out with? The skull made me think of the Macbeth/Yorick bit in Last Action Hero. BTW, hats off to the FX crew, and the production staff in general, because the budget for this movie was $1million but it looks far more expensive. Now it gets even more wild, because as the film on screen seems to break down due to projector malfunction, we cut to POV the Dark Beneath Radford character, but now he’s in the movie theatre and he’s hunting down our small crowd, one by one. Why don’t they just leave the theatre? Well, obviously because a supernatural force has sealed all the doors and windows, and there is no escape. Duh.

I really liked the way this story evolves, plot wise and visually. The kills come in an interesting order, and the more the world of the Dark Beneath fuses with the world of our characters, the more interesting and surprising the plot twists become. The performance of the cast was strong. I have a minor problem with the way the Dark Beneath was shot, as it looked more like a 60s movie, except that it was in black and white, which could make it even earlier. Anyway, thinking about it, I guess you could argue that the clunkiness there is actually true to grindhouse, and so perhaps I’ll withdraw that complaint. The director Jack Messitt has mostly been a cinematographer until now, but he clearly has a great deal of talent as a writer/director. Jack: forget shooting stuff for American Idol, go and make more movies! Writer Mark Garbett, nice job.

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Pete (13 years ago) Reply

medium = singular
media = plural
"medias" = ouch.


Cyberhal (13 years ago) Reply

ouch. Mea culpa.


projectcyclops (13 years ago) Reply

Good review, sounds a little like our man Mr. Argento's Demons 1.

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