Genre : Horror
Country : USA
Director: Travis Zariwny
A girl and her friends find a game in the attic that summons a creature known as The Midnight Man, who uses their worst fears against them.
Fame can be a funny thing. Some actors can spend decades doing character work and never have their breakout role while someone can become the next big thing thanks to the right role. Just as random is when a starring role can happen. A perfect example of this is Lin Shaye. First appearing as an extra in 1975’s Hester Street she has worked with everyone from Wes Craven to the Farrelly Brothers. Despite her prolific career she really hasn’t been a star until 2010’s Insidious. Stealing the show as the medium Elise she has become one of the most popular heroines in modern horror. Bringing a sincerity and likability to the role Shaye has not only been a star in every Insidious sequel since but she has also revitalized her career. Appearing in everything from the Ouija movies to surreal thriller Buster’s Mal Heart the 74 year old is one of the hardest working actors today.
A big reason she has been embraced by horror fans is that she seems to give her all no matter how small a movie may be. There’s no better example of this than her portrayal of Anna in The Midnight Man. All things considered the role isn’t particularly interesting. For the most part it is a typical horror movie evil old lady role ala The Taking of Deborah Logan or The Visit. But while some actors would sleepwalk through the role Shaye brings just as much effort as she would for the next Insidious film. The same can be said of her co-star Robert Englund. As the mysterious Doctor Goodberry he provides exposition without it bringing the film to an absolute halt. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the rest of the cast.
The majority of the movie is led by Gabrielle Haugh and Grayson Gabriel as Alex and Miles, respectively. I name them here because you wouldn’t know who they are based on the movie. Instead of real characters we get the kind of stock characters you would expect from a movie trying to emulate the Blumhouse style. From the skeptic friend that gets sucked into the Midnight Man curse to our generic lead there is nobody we haven’t seen in better movies. Now all of this isn’t to say the acting is bad. While Gabrielle Haugh comes off as a bit stiff for the most part the cast is good when it comes to the actual acting. More often than not The Midnight Man‘s problems revolve around the movie’s plot as opposed to the people in front of the camera.
To say that The Midnight Man feels overly familiar would be an understatement. Like a lot of direct-to-video fare The Midnight Man tries it’s best to be like what’s big at the box office. In this case the plot feels like a mix of The Bye Bye Man and Ouija. Following every tired Blumhouse cliché, The Midnight Man hits all the jump scares and character beats you would expect from this kind of movie. Even the villain comes off as unoriginal going for the slender-man-in-a-hoodie look that Bye Bye Man tried to pull off. All of this put together makes the whole affair feel very paint-by-numbers. That isn’t to say that the movie is a total loss.
Despite the film’s standard story, The Midnight Man does do some things to differentiate it from its big screen brethren. Perhaps most noticeable is how bloody the film gets. Unlike most modern ghost stories Zarwiny doesn’t hold back on the gore and it works. Scenes like the opening with kids being killed harkened back to a time where pushing the limit was more about fun and schlock than just trying to repulse people. Helping these visuals pop is the fact that they’re mostly practical effects. While there’s a fair amount of computer effects but when the Midnight Man starts to cut our cast down Zarwiny typically used some good looking practical effects. It doesn’t necessarily improve the story but it keeps it from floundering like so many other big screen wannabes.
Indie horror can be a bit of a crapshoot nowadays. For every Hounds of Love or It Comes at Night pushing the boundaries of horror there are numerous Blumhouse-knockoffs taking up space on page 7 of Amazon Prime. The Midnight Man is the rare film that straddles the line between the two. With its predictable story and familiar aesthetic, it would be easy to look over this scary movie. But thanks to some good looking practical effects and fun performances from Lin Shaye and Robert Englund, The Midnight Man makes for an enjoyable, if conventional, supernatural tale.