I scored another 8-pack DVD collection of “midnight horror” because I wanted the flick Office Killer and it was cheaper to get it with 7 other movies than to get it as a singe disc. Of course, I already had about half the movies in the pack in my collection, so I’m just going to cover the three that were new and fresh for me.
OFFICE KILLER (1997)
Office Killer makes a perfect midnight movie. Clearly a low-budget indie, it stars Carol Kane as a nerdy office worker who gets a taste for blood after she accidentally kills her boss.
Adding to the camp value, Molly Ringwald plays her nemesis, while Jeanne Tripplehorn feels bad for Carol because she’s a loser who lives at home taking care of her ailing mother.
What makes this short, darkly comic horror flick so appealing is Carol Kane’s brilliant performance. She is so perfectly plain Jane yet a sadistic killer (even killing two little Girl Scouts) who seems nonchalant, meek, naïve, and pitiful when she’s interacting with the corpses in her basement as if they are her friends. It’s only at the end of the movie that the psychopath in her comes out…and it’s damn creepy.
The plot is simply about the downsizing of the company in which the ladies work. Molly brings the mean girl drama as the hateful fellow employee trying to convince Jeanne that Carol is crazy. It’s so odd seeing these actresses in such an indie horror, but their presence really negates the low budget.
In fact, there are really no “special effects” and most of the kill scenes aren’t even shown. All the horror comes from Carol’s corpse collection—and the body parts she plays with around the kitchen. Office Killer is one macabre little movie.
THE MESMERIST (2002)
The Mesmerist is one of those treasures you find in these crappy 8-movie combo packs! This is midnight movie gold and reminds me of classic gothic comedy like Clue, Elvira’s Haunted Hills, and Haunted Honeymoon. There’s a spooky big house, thunder, lightning…and a corpse eventually.
The Mesmerist is actually based on the Edgar Allan Poe story “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” and feels like it could easily have been a comic play. Neil Patrick Harris, looking all kinds of adorable, comes with his fiancée to her dying father’s house. The father (who spends the whole movie in bed) is played by Howard Hesseman, who some might know as Dr. Fever from WKRP in Cincinnati or the teacher from Head of the Class.
The only other people in the house are the bangin’ hot maid (who totally wants Neil’s body), the father’s doctor, and an eccentric “mesmerist.” The mesmerist plans to hypnotize the father right before he dies so he can still communicate with him from beyond.
Meanwhile, Neil is counting the minutes until the father dies because the father swears he’ll come back from the dead if need be to keep Neil from marrying his daughter. Plenty of slapstick and deadpan comedy ensues, but eventually Daddy dies, and guess what happens then.
I’m surprised The Mesmerist hasn’t gotten more notice, especially with the popularity Neil Patrick Harris has found in the past decade. This is one of those films I would have watched dozens of times on cable when I was a kid.
THE SHADOWS (2011)
The Shadows is way indie with virtually a one room set. But it doesn’t really fit the “midnight movie” mold. There’s nothing intentionally campy or darkly humorous here. It’s trying to tell a pretty serious story of life and death with a supernatural spin.
Five people shack up in an old lighthouse after their boat is rammed by another boat. They’re all amazed they’re alive and fear that the guys on the other boat did it on purpose and might come for them. They’re right.
The characters spend much of the movie talking and arguing about the secret affairs they are all having with each other. They eventually take a break to fight off a demon-eyed “pirate” in a hooded robe and wielding a sword. They board themselves up in the house Night of the Living Dead style to help fend off the pirates—although, we only ever see one pirate. Not exactly the creepy guy on the DVD cover, huh?
The Shadows eventually reveals the big “twist,” but at this point we’ve all seen The Sixth Sense, The Others, etc., etc. So it’s pretty clear where this is leading from the moment they get to the lighthouse, each detailing how they almost died during the crash, revealing their sins, realizing there are no steps to climb to the beacon of light above them, and being chased by a hellish guy in a robe with a sharp weapon….
The even bigger twist? The ones who don’t get dragged to hell are anything but pure and righteous! WTF?
Even so, it’s not a bad concept. With a bigger budget and a script that focused less on the character dramatics and more on the gang being terrorized in a lighthouse, this could have been a creepy film.