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Case Number 07799

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Midnight (1982)

Lionsgate // 1982 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 15th, 2005

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All Rise...

It's official: Judge David Johnson is never going to a secluded farmhouse. Ever.

The Charge

Madness begins when the clock strikes twelve.

Opening Statement

I'm not sure where Lions Gate dug this relic up, but it's a creepy little flick.

Facts of the Case

The film opens with a young girl baying for help, her foot caught in an animal trap. A group of yokels approach her, wielding blunt instruments. She screams for help, but to no avail; she's beaten silly then dragged off to a Satanic ritual, her fate a grisly one.

Meanwhile, "teenaged" girl Nancy Johnson (Melanie Verlin) has problems of her own. Her drunken, abusive scumbag of a stepfather is relentless in his sexual pursuits. To escape, Nancy takes to the road to hitchhike out of the situation.

She eventually comes in contact with a couple of shifty young men driving a van with a shag-carpet interior (clue number one to wait for another ride). The trio heads to Florida with the corniest soundtrack ever playing the background.

But along the way, they find themselves held over in a small, creepy town, menaced by a family of devil-worshippers. Suddenly, Nancy is fighting for her life, thrown into a hellish situation where she will likely end up being served up to the Dark One, or worse, fondled by a mentally deficient hillbilly.

The Evidence

I have never heard of Midnight before watching it and so had no idea what to expect. It's a film from 1982, and looks every bit the two-decade plus age it is. The plot is as simple as you can get—woman terrorized by nutbags—and the production values are simplistic. But man if it didn't kind of creep the crap out of me.

There are three different elements of Midnight that contributed to the overall sense of unease I had watching this film, each generating their own sense of weirdness: the stepfather, the Satanists, and the score.

The Stepfather
This was just wrong. Lawrence Tierney plays Bert Johnson, Nancy's lecherous stepfather. As soon as he makes his appearance, you know something awful is going to happen. His slurred, gruff, sleazy voice combined with his too-close pawing of his stepdaughter eventually leads to a near-rape. Sure, Nancy is able to escape, as Bert passes out on her bed, but just seeing this guy, a bulbous old dude, writhing on top of his daughter, is all kinds of gross.

Where it ranks on the Disturb-O-Meter:
7.5 or "Striking up a casual conversation on the train with a stranger only to find out he has a fetish for being urinated on."

The Satanists
Devil-worshippers wig me out. I don't know if it's non-PC to say that, what with universal acceptance of all types of worship, but there's just something about weird folks in hoods and eyeliner lighting candles and muttering incoherently to a Pentagram. Midnight features some sweet Satanists, and these folks are hardcore. They celebrate Easter (!) by kidnapping young girls, storing them in animal cages, then strapping them to an altar and slicing them up with a blade. As an added bonus, this particular Satan-worshipping family likes to do all of this craziness with their dead and decaying mother watching and a crucified skeleton hanging in the background.

Where it ranks on the Disturb-O-Meter:
8 or "You're taking a shower one day and a crazed leprechaun pops his head through the shower curtain and begins heckling your shampoo technique."

The Score
And finally, the most wacked-out part of this film, the background music. The film marches to an ultra-cheesy soundtrack, complete with synthesizers '70s porno-style melodies, with a few female vocals tossed in for good measure. But the weird thing is that this music is overlaid on some of the more horrific imagery of the film, in particular the stepfather's attempted rape, some brutal killings, and the murderous rituals. A juxtaposition of nightmarish proportions.

Where it ranks on the Disturb-O-Meter:
9.5 or "Stumbling across a sex tape your grandparents made to celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary."

My final call on Midnight is that's it's a decent little horror gem from long ago. Dated and crusty? Sure. But it's hard to lose when you combine Satan a rustic setting a family of rednecks together. A solid horror flick.

The technical aspects are not this disc's strong points. The picture suffers from grain and flat colors, saturated with an overall sense of age. The 2.0 stereo mix is hardly a heavy-hitter, but serviceable nonetheless. The disc has zero extras.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

How about one more special bonus disturbing element? Nancy is supposed to be in high school, but Melanie Verlin looks like she could be thirty easily. And she has a deeper voice than me.

Closing Statement

Midnight is a zany little piece of nihilism and has enough off-putting moments in it for a recommendation. Horror fans should get a kick out of this obscure little film, and may in fact be prompted to upholster their van interiors with some righteous shag carpeting.

The Verdict

Satan says: "Not guilty! Now kneel before me!"

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Scales of Justice

Video: 70
Audio: 70
Extras: 0
Acting: 85
Story: 85
Judgment: 82

Perp Profile

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1982
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Horror

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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