Since the1982 film Midnight is horror and came from the 80s, I’m obligated to own it. Yes, obligated. It’s a rule of living in the Dan Zone. I’m just shocked that I absolutely never saw this movie before I bought it on DVD. It must have been one of the few 80s horror movies we didn’t carry in the video store at which I worked in the 80s.
Getting the important horror trivia out of the way, this film is written and directed by John Russo, the man responsible for writing the original Night of the Living Dead. When the film begins, it seems like it’s going to be a real bad low-budget flick but once it gets off the ground (and that takes a while), there are actually some great horror elements.
The film has a prologue involving a mother and her children catching a little girl in an animal trap in a field. When the little girl is sitting with her leg in the animal trap, she sounds and looks like she was directed to merely scream—without any direction as to the kind of pain and terror she would be in if she was actually caught in an animal trap. Not a good sign.
It only gets worse when we flash forward and meet Nancy, a tomboyish looking chick who somehow ends up being the objective of every man’s “affection.” First thing, her drunk old stepfather cop comes home and tries to molest her, so she hits him over the head with a tape recorder (totally 80s!) and runs away, leaving him passed out on her bed and…snoring. I kid not.
Once she takes to the streets, she’s immediately offered a ride—in exchange for sex—by some perv in a car. Instead, she jumps into a truck with a black dude and a white dude. As they drive off, things go really downhill and make me pretty sure this film was made in the 70s but not released until 82. We are treated to a melodramatic, soft rock track by a female singer, with the main lyrics being “you’re on your own.” Wow, this is bad.
At a gas station, they meet a black reverend and his daughter who tell them there have been a lot of murders in the town over the past few years that the locals are calling “accidental deaths” because they are a bunch of racists. Wow. Didn’t see the racism angle coming. Our interracial trio experiences it firsthand (they’re run out of a bar for having a black dude with them) and the black dude drops the “honky” bomb after. Awesome! Then the trio starts stealing from convenience stores…to the mellow 70s sounds of “You’re on your own”! TOO funny.
This is where the real horror finally begins and we are treated to a backwoods family film that’s half Texas Chainsaw Massacre, half Psycho. The trio makes a “wrong turn.” They soon see a fat hick running around in the woods with what looks like a body. But it wouldn’t be an 80s horror movie if they didn’t decide to camp out anyway…and if Nancy didn’t decide to take a walk by herself the next morning.
She ends up in the custody of two “policemen.” One is a totally androgynous dude (at first I thought it was a woman) and the other is this bulky, bald, goateed leather daddy type! WTF? It’s like something out of a Mapplethorpe photo. They take Nancy to their sadistic home to meet the whole family. This is when it gets really good.
Meanwhile, her dirty stepdaddy has decided to go find her and make amends, so he follows clues all the way to the crazy family’s house!!! And he’s just in time for a satanic Easter ritual.
Nancy is the star, so it’s up to her to save the day. Once she does what needs to be done, the credits begin to roll to the melody of… “You’re on your own”! Didn’t anyone tell John Russo that classics like Night of the Living Dead are classics in part because of their appropriate musical scores???
As cheesy as Midnight is (the word is actually a lyric in “You’re on your own”), it has some really strong horror moments that make it totally worth a watch. Like I said, it feels more 70s than 80s, so I can’t say it gets major points for coming from the 80s.
MIDNIGHT 2: SEX, DEATH, AND VIDEOTAPE (1993)
A little more than a decade later, John Russo made this direct-to-video sequel that is seriously direct-to-video. We’re talking home movie quality. It runs less than an hour and 10 minutes (what a relief), 20 minutes of which are flashbacks to the original movie.
The other 48 minutes involve one surviving member of the family from the first movie (played by a different actor) videotaping women he either wants to marry or kill. He always chooses to kill them. He also talks directly to the camera about the usual psycho killer hang-ups: mom, his fucked up childhood, sex, his methods of murder, etc.
The guy playing the killer is pretty good at being super psycho but he has no one to work against. It’s all cardboard acting and terrible dialogue. He kills one girl he meets in the park. Her friend saw him filming them while they ate, so she goes to the cops. She starts to have a romantic relationship with the detective on the case, so they make a plan for her to date the video camera guy to find out what he knows. But he’s smarter than them….
The entertaining parts? The killer ties the detective to a chair, shirtless, and talks about his nipples. Also, during one of their “dates,” the lead girl tells the killer all about how her gay brother was disowned by the family and then she got pretty much disowned for supporting him.
You don’t have to see Midnight to understand what’s going on here. And whether or not you’ve seen the first one, you won’t really care what’s going on here. This is bottom of the barrel indie horror. You would never imagine that the creator had anything to do with the classic Night of the Living Dead.