A Startling & Shocking Adventure - As Three College Students Take a Strange Detour to the Land of the LIVING DEAD!
Year of Release: 1982
Running Time: 91 minutes (1:31)
Director: John A. Russo
Melanie Verlin ... Nancy Johnson
Lawrence Tierney ... Bert Johnson
John Hall ... Tom
Charles Jackson ... Hank
Doris Hackney ... Harriet Johnson
Bob Johnson ... Reverend Carrington
Lachele Carl ... Sandra Carrington
David Marchick ... Cyrus
Greg Besnak ... Luke
John Amplas ... Abraham
Robin Walsh ... Cynthia
In Midnight, madness begins when the clock strikes twelve! Determined to escape the perverted clutches of her twisted stepfather, Nancy Johnson decides to hitchhike to California. But when she joins up with two seemingly harmless young men, Nancy begins a whirlwind descent toward nightmarish insanity... and a fate more terrifying than anything she could ever imagine.
Midnight... so America, how's that religious freedom workin' out? I think the crew of the Mayflower would be pleased beyond comprehension if they could see what their desire to be out from under the thumb of King James I has wrought, don't you? Think of it. King James I would have simply had the family in the movie sent to the guillotine an called it a day. But thanks to the efforts of those noble Separatists, Satan worship is now a viable religious option for us all. Bless you caring souls, for without you and your efforts, not only would many unfortunate individuals fail to bleed out at the alters of psychopaths in hoods and cloaks, but we may never have slaughtered countless Indians and displaced them to put up Wal Marts on their sacred tribal grounds. Oh, but here's a drumstick for you guys, we're good now, right? Swell bunch of guys, those Pilgrims. On the other hand, without them, we're all stuck eating British cuisine for the rest of our lives. I guess you've gotta take the bad with the good sometimes. So anyway, as the best satanic cult worship film of 1982 to feature a redneck ensemble and gratuitous Lawrence Tierney, this one is bound to endear all that encounter it to its charms. So, first of all, if you're a black pastor living in rural Pennsylvania and you know that your entire would be congregation is going to hate you right out of the shoot for no reason other than your skin color, it might not be the ideal location to set up your church. Now granted, the guy certainly shouldn't *have* to leave for such a moronic reason, but still, how many souls do you suppose you're going to save after the cops find you field dressed and hanging in Bubba's barn after you've been missing for a week? Not to mention the fact that this area seems to be Satan's turf.
Second, are we really supposed to be rooting for Lawrence Tierney after the only thing separating him from child rape is a well placed radio into his skull? Sure, he may be able to help her escape from the cultists, but what's she going home to if he can even pull this off? This all seems to stem from the Catholicism theme we've got goin' on here, wherein anything you do is fine, so long as you repent later. An third, 300+ pound men make fantastic ninja assassins. You'd never expect a clumsy ox like that to try an sneak up on you, after all, an that's just the angle he's working. But what I'd like to discuss is proper storage of hostage victims. In the movie, the family here stores their sacrificial women in dog kennels until needed. I suppose it could be worse, Mitt Romney would store them in binders, but still, this is a pretty cramped situation. Not to mention the wire on these things doesn't look iron clad. More like aluminum clad. They've at least got locks on them, but if a whites sale breaks out next door these women'll be outta their cages quicker than a drug dealer in a blue state an then who're you gonna sacrifice to He Who Walks Behind the Rows? This whole situation's no good. At least put a water dish in there with 'em so they've got slightly less reason to try an bust out, an honestly, who wants to clean it up when nature inevitably calls? I dunno, maybe it's just me. I just find this whole operation a little unprofessional is all. These guys need to get it together or Satan's gonna be real mad when they don't come through, an they're gonna be stuck at entry level when they finally do make it to Hell.
The movie begins with a girl shrieking like Paris Hilton when her personal shopper bought her the wrong brand of bottled water. Which can happen when you step in a bear trap that you weren't expecting. She's advanced upon by a family of slack jawed troglodytes with a Mama that's gone looney tunes an thinks she'll make a fantastic Christmas gift for papa Satan, so she has one of the boys make like a Canadian that's confused her for a baby seal an then they drag her home so they can shank her at the stroke of Midnight an score big points with Satan. Now, for those of you that think it's odd that Satan might celebrate Christmas, let me ask you something. How many non Christians do you know that still expect a gift? I think that should just about straighten that out, now don't make me bring this up again. You're getting me off track here. The movie doesn't really make it completely clear until the end credits roll and you see a list of actors that played the "young" villains, so the scene that just transpired was a flashback, just to be clear. Next thing, we've got a sexually ambiguous child sitting in the dark getting grilled by the local priest for having sexual relations with a boy outside of wedlock. As if he wasn't doin' the same thing the weekend before, but that's not really important. So she apologizes to God for being a big slut an the next thing we know she's at home on the phone. She's supposed to get the car from her stepfather, but instead of the car keys he tries to slip her something else that's been long mistreated an doesn't fit quite right anymore. Dad (Lawrence Tierney) isn't really her type an mostly she'd just like for him to get a RealDoll an leave her alone, but he's real persistent an after he plops down on top of her she has to bust his melon with her radio so he can sleep off his drunk an disorderly. So with Lawrence having sweet dreams of underaged poontang, the girl (Nancy) packs her suitcase an gets outta Dodge. The first guy that tries to pick her up is at least willing to negotiate with her on the rights to her nether regions, but after Lawrence passed out on top of her she's not only a little tired of this routine but also starting to think maybe women are the way go to. A couple other guys are waiting in the vulture position watching her, but other than the fact that one of them's a little resentful of her not tiptoeing around the fact that he's black, and real resentful of the fact that she might break up the bromance he's planning with the other guy, they're really not all that bad. The white guy (Tom) wants to pick her up, but the black guy (Hank) says she's bad news an that she'll probably scream rape the instant she gets in the car.
Well, if she hasn't done that at this point it's probably not too likely an Tom decides to pick her up despite Hank's warnings. Nancy's trying to get to California where her sister lives, but tags along with the guys even though they're headed about as far from California as possible without the use of a plane or a ship. Back home, Lawrence wakes up lookin' like he fell asleep on a busted mascara container an Mom doesn't find it the least bit odd that his shirt's open an he was asleep on her daughter's bed the whole time. Lawrence figures even as dense as this bimbo is he'd probably better cover his butt just in case (no easy task, it's about 2 and a half feet wide) an tells Mom that he dunno where she is, that she hangs out with a bad crowd an that she's got a thing for him an if she doesn't stop he's gonna scream rape. So while Mom tries to digest all this, Nancy, Tom, an Hank stop for gas and an old black pastor comes up an asks if he an his hot daughter can get a lift to their house cause he doesn't like walking the backroads around here on account of so many guys that dress up in sheets occupying the area. So they drop the reverend an his daughter off at their place, located conveniently near the local cemetery where they need to stop by an talk to the reverend's dead wife for a little bit. The daughter prays quite a bit quicker than the reverend, so once she's done she heads for the house. But as the reverend finally gets done telling his dead wife about how the daughter gets her attitude from her side of the family, he's mugged by what looks like Al Borland after 3 years of binge gorging an Al stabs 'em until he looks like Ray Charles tried to shave his whole body with a straight razor. Then the kids stop in at a local bar, only all the mouth breathers inside hate Hank cause his schlong's so much bigger than theirs an cause he never once used it on his sister. Then the sheriff an the rest of the derp squad tell 'em they'd better get their hineys outta here cause Hank's bringing the town's collective IQ up by a good 6 points an they're gonna start losing government funding if the feds find out about it. Hank wants to get 'em back, but Tom thinks that's too dangerous; beyond the type of morally questionable actions they've been engaging in their entire trip. Oh, by the way, didn't they mention that they don't have enough cash for this trip so they've been stealing food the whole time? Maybe they should have told Nancy about that awhile ago, was that wrong not to?
But they do need food, an the Bible says it's okay as long as you're starving, so Nancy decides to stick with 'em an she an Hank go inside the next store they come upon an make a little withdrawal, an within minutes the cops are on them like Chris Brown's fist on Rihanna's facial tissue. Meanwhile, Al is hauling the reverend's corpse around in broad daylight, but the daughter suffers from debilitating obliviousness an only sees it when Al props it up against the front door an... Ding Dong Ditches her. Then he waddles his way inside an eventually gets ahold of her an strangles her in the bathtub. I'd have thought the idea of touching water would scare this guy shitless, but he's dedicated. Back at the car chase, neither the kids nor any of the oncoming traffic sees fit to pull over for the cops, and eventually they're able to get just far enough ahead (in a van from the 1970s) that when they pull off into the boonies, the cops blow right by an they're safe, for the moment. But on their travels they almost run into Al who's carrying the reverend's body wrapped up in a sheet an he has to make a quick (as quick as this guy's able to do anything, other than eat) 180 before they get suspicious. That night, the hash they're smoking does little to quell Hank's general unhappiness with Nancy, who's not only breaking up his would be bromance, but also playing her guitar an singing "slave songs". Hank tells her she shouldn't be doin' that cause white people have no idea what it's like to be slaves an after everyone with an IQ above room temperature in the audience facepalms, Nancy wanders off, with Tom in tow. Tom explains that Hank's really not that bad once you get past his massive insecurity an general grumpiness an that he didn't mean anything by that. But Nancy knows better, and in the morning she ditches out on them so she can stop feeling like Yoko Ono. Back home, Mom's starting to wonder if maybe Lawrence isn't telling the whole truth, an after he reassures her he goes to work without showing the slightest sign of offense at the accusation that maybe he's trying to diddle her. Yeah that's not suspicious at all. I know if someone accused me of that when I wasn't guilty I'd be perfectly calm about it. Back at camp, Nancy has ditched out just in time to miss the cops that show up to arrest Tom an Hank. Only these guys aren't really cops an they're so incompetent they make Rufus an Lester from Two Thousand Maniacs look like Stephen Hawking and Nikola Tesla. They end up capping Hank an Tom when they won't tell them where Nancy is, only they see her run when they finish off the guys an give chase. She eventually makes her way to... well, if you've seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre, you know where she ends up running to.
Inside she finds a girl (Cynthia) playing solitaire an Al, who's sawing the head off one of the two deputies whose clothing the other two yokels (Luke and Abraham) stole. After Al asks her if she knows what time it is, she tries to escape, but Luke an Abraham get ahold of her an stuff her in a dog kennel for safe keepin'. Then Cynthia browbeats all three of 'em for killing another girl they had captured prematurely an that they're all gonna be in big trouble when Mama finds out. So then the three chunkheads load up their corpse cache an pile 'em up with Tom an Hank an make some B-B-Q. The girl in the next kennel tells Nancy that the big galoots drugged the cops when they showed up here looking for the kids that robbed the store, then 86'd her friend when she wouldn't quit tryin' to kick 'em in the balls. A little later, Luke goes up to have a talk with Mama cause he's got a lotta 'splainin to do. Only Mama's essentially a slightly less rotted version of Mrs. Bates an nobody seems to notice that she doesn't talk as much as she used to an there's this horrible stench that always permeates from the room she's occupying. So then Luke an Abraham have to sneak up on a couple playing frisbee to get a replacement sacrifice an stab the bejezus outta the guy for tryin' to stop progress. Back at the house, Al's tormenting the girls in the kennels with his knife and his natural aroma until Cynthia comes in an tells them not to bother praying because evil will always triumph over good, because good is dumb. Then Lawrence shows up at the local precinct an tells the sheriff that his buddies from work (he's a cop, isn't that lovely) got a track on the van that they saw Nancy leave town in (but didn't bother to mention to Lawrence until he asked), and that the van was last seen in his town. The sheriff tells Lawrence that the van must be magic because it outran his guys' police cruiser, then his deputies went missing. So the sheriff shows Lawrence where the van was last seen an tells 'im that if he sees his deputies to tell 'em to stay outta other people's moonshine stills an get their butts back to the station cause he's got a lotta drivin' around town lookin' for minorities to harass that he needs to get done before the shift ends. Back at casa de wacko, the purpose for the kidnapped girls becomes apparent, 'cause the family worships the devil an they need the girls' blood to bring their dead Mama back to life so they'll have someone to pack their lunches. I've obviously got serious problems if it took that long to describe this razor thin plot, so we'll cut it here.
Unfortunately, this one just isn't very good. I and everyone else have undoubtedly seen worse. In its defense, I must again reference Job Bob Briggs who said "a movie can be anything, except boring". And if nothing else, it isn't boring. The pacing isn't completely terrible, even though we're ultimately leading up to a Texas Chainsaw Massacre style conclusion where the girl mistakenly makes her way to the psycho's house an her fate comes into question. But like TCM, it's a little dull up until that point. They try to spice it up with some butchery here an there, an it's not too bad, but the plot has some problems. And some notions that are just bad ideas. Lawrence Tierney's character is one of those problems. I like Lawrence, don't get me wrong. And I certainly don't have a problem with him playing a guy that's screwed up. Frankly it would be disappointing and unbelievable if he wasn't. But to have him portray a lush of a cop that wants to get his stepdaughter's groceries, then turn around and ask us to root for him to save her later? What the fuck is that? We couldn't give a shit less if Lawrence's character gets butchered by the crazies. At that point, the perfect ending is him getting into a shootout with the loonies, wherein, both he and the kooks all get killed. The degree to which he's any better than they are is very minor. So there's that, also, he's able to find her pretty easily because some guys he knows at the precinct saw her hitchhike out of town an grabbed the license plate. But they didn't think it was necessary to mention it to him until he asked? And the black reverend in the bigoted part of town? I get that the racism is a plot device to make us dislike the townsfolk, and that's okay, but the idea that the reverend is gonna take up residence here, not buying it. Other than that, the plot isn't too bad, if borrowing pretty liberally from Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Psycho. In which case you could just suggest that you've got an entire family of Ed Geins an simplify it. Most low budget horror movies have their moments where the audience just doesn't buy what the film makers are trying to sell, so these things aren't completely crippling, but when combined with a few other issues, the score suffers.
So that covers the plot and its problems. The biggest problem is the acting. I do understand and accept that we're working on a shoe string budget here, and that's okay. Given the plot of the movie, you really don't need that much of a budget, but I wonder if maybe they didn't give their entire acting budget to Lawrence Tierney and pick up everyone else for 1% of the net profits or something because most everyone besides Lawrence is terrible. John Amples (Martin, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Creepshow) isn't too bad and I personally thought Robin Walsh as Cynthia was pretty decent. Although she stands out in the same way as Deborah Reed in Troll 2, wherein, her character is more over the top than the rest, and the rest of the cast makes her look good by comparison. A lot of the cast (that have any other acting titles in their entire career) have ties to Dawn of the Dead (small parts), The Booby Hatch, and Heartstopper. What you'll find those titles all have in common is John Russo and George Romero, who worked together on Night of the Living Dead. You can attach just about all the actors to either Russo or Romero and the Dead series in some fashion. But as I mentioned, a whole lot of them never worked on anything else. So the acting is pretty bad, but still not reaching Troll 2 levels. Although Ellie Wyler as Gwen was really flirting with it. The special effects weren't too bad. Nothing particularly impressive, but I don't suppose there really was a whole lot to be impressive with. Some stab wounds, the dead mother, a bullet through the forehead, and David Marchick sawing a head off. That was probably the most elaborate effect. But anyway, nothing wrong with any of the special effects, because, Tom Savini. Maybe he's where all their money went, come to think of it. The shooting locations are a high point, very believable. A rustic, barren area with scattered abandoned housing, and sheds here an there. This is supposed to be the middle of nowhere and it looks like the middle of nowhere, well done on that front. The soundtrack isn't too bad, though it's certainly not good. It gets loud and obnoxious a few times and when that happens, it's not adding to the scenes, it's wrecking them. It does have some scenes which are enhanced by the soundtrack, but they're outweighed by the bad ones. In summary, the soundtrack is a net loss of points. It's also got a few editing problems, some scenes really drag on, and others cut away too quickly. Not to mention the ending is particularly abrupt and unsatisfying. Overall, it's worth watching once, but isn't all that impressive and is only recommended for fans of the cultist sub-genre, and to whittle that down a little further, people who aren't concerned about a movie's budget.