midnightMidnight (1982)

1982, written and directed by John Russo, FX: Tom Savini

Actors(?): John (Martin) Amplas, Lawrence Tierney, Melanie Verlin


Ahhh the eighties. I just reached my 18th birthday and so finally was able to catch all the nice horror stuff, which was a forbidden fruit before. I read my Fangoria and started collecting movies on betamax. My heroes were Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, George Romero and (last but not least) Tom Savini.

So why did I never watch “Midnight”? I could cheat me out with mentioning there never was a german release, but facts like such never hindered me, when hunting down a movie. Hey, I even got versions of classics like “The Tingler”, directly filmed from a flickering TV-screen and had a lot of international mail-contacts to share movies with.

But “Midnight” was the only movie even Savini himself ignored in his own book “Bizarro” and over the last almost three decades, it seldom popped up in my brain the way other lost movies did. So, even when I finally layed hands on a nice DVD-rip a few months ago, I wasn´t really eager to watch it.

But finally I sat down yesterday in my comfort-chair, opened a can of my favorite beer and clicked play.

Surprisingly the movie starts with a bang. A girl about twelve caught in a beartrap, crying and screaming. A woman and four kids are closing in and when finally reaching the hurt little girl, instead of helping her, one of the boys clubs her to a pulp with a baseball bat.

Cut and credits, which are rolling over the face of a teenage girl, our heroine Nancy, who is doing her first confession in two years. While we are getting to know Nancys christian faith in this subtle way, we also learn that William (Bill) Hintzman, who played the first Zombie in Romeros “Night of the living Dead” was the additional still photographer on this project and John (Martin) Amplas also has a role. Also we can check out that Tom Savinis Special-Makeup credit is a lot smaller, than the one of the “End sequence effects” which are credited to majestro John Russo himself.


Wow, I can´t wait for these. But sarcasm aside, back to the movie.

After the credits we find Nancy in her room, phoning with another teenage girl and giving us an warning example of expositinary dialogue. “Yes my stepfather the policeman will lend me his car when he comes home....No, my mother isn´at home...Yes I think he will be drunk again when coming home.” And so on and so on – you better get used to this kind of storytelling.

For keeping it short, of course the police-stepfather comes home drunk as a sailor and starts making some pedophile, but not incestious (“I´m your stepfather....”) advances to our holy Nancy. So she grabs a radio and touches his head slightly with it and he gets down. Nancy now has enough, packs a little suitcase and her guitar and leaves home to hitchhike to California.

After a short episode with a slimy guy (and some more expositionary dialogue) she enters a volkswagen van with two guys, which are on their way to Florida. This seems to be no big deal for Nancy.

If you don´t like bad movies or useless filling material you should now fast-forward to minute 53. But you really would miss some great stuff:

The worst title-song ever, repeated for countless times. With great lyrics like:
“You´re all alone,
you´re on your own,
and dawn will lead to midnight.”

A use- and bloodless murder at a – or better THE – cemetery we all know from “Night of the living dead”.

Another bloodless murder in a bathtub, which also is in no way related to the story.

By a really bad and tasteless early Star Wars-reference concerning a dark skinned man and a line from the cantina-scene.

When Nancy grabs her guitar in the unavoidable campfire-scene and give us her own interpretation of the title-song.

At the worst convinience-store robbery ever filmed.

As hinted above – all this has nothing to do with he plot, which kicks into gear again after a plot-twist I at least not saw coming. Afterwards Nancy is on her own finally and enters a strange house just in he right moment to witness a gory (but much to short) beheading. She ends up in a animal cage with another captured girl nearby which now explains the real plot so far in another three minutes of exposition. Seems like a lot has happened while we were following Nancy and her friends.

midnight02The final 30 minutes of he movie are really not so bad and at least more action oriented. We get some nice bullet-hits, two really bloody throat slittings and a nice looking mummy. Great FX-work by master Savini, but cut to pieces to receive the R-rating. Also we will discover that anything we watched so far takes place at least 15 years after the pre-title sequence.

Ohh and by he way – I couldn´t find the great “end-sequence effects” mentioned in the credits, perhaps another viewer will have more luck.

All in all “Midnight” is another example for he rule that a writer shouldn´t bring his own work to the screen. John Russo´s directing skills are perhaps a little better than those of Ed Wood, but not much. He has absolutly no feeling for timing, most scenes are exactly one or two seconds to long, not a single sequence in he whole movie is scary and he also can´t get a good performance from his better known actors, like Amplas or Tierney. Lets not even talk about he rest of he cast which are mostly unknowns.

The script also doesn´t work. To much exposition and no concentration on the real plot. When I want to see a drama about reckless teenagers I watch “Rumble Fish” - at least this doesn´t change into “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” midways. I´m not against a nice twist from time to time, but even Hitchcock wouldn´t have kicked his audience in he nuts this way.

It also doesn´help that the make-up-FX by Savini mostly ended on the cutting room floor and whats left of them is framed badly. It seems that the goremaster didn´t have the total control of his work this time around.

I didn´t expect to discover a lost masterpiece when watching “Midnight” although it was a disapointement. Watch at your own risk – you´ve been warned.





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