Midnight - Midnight(Blu Ray) [ - 2021]
Though Midnight appeared in the early 1980s, it feels so 70’s exploitation it hurts. It’s a backwoods thriller-come-chiller with chuckling killer rednecks ‘n’ deranged cops, a blood-drinking satanic cult, with good doses of both sleaze ‘n’ violence. Here from the folks over at Severin films is a new region free Blu Ray release of the film- featuring a rather classy new print, and some neat extras.
Filmed largely in rural Pennsylvania Midnight (aka Backwoods Massacre) is a 1982 film written and directed by John Russo- who is most known as the writer of Night Of The Living Dead, though he has nine other directorial credits to his name, and twenty-plus writer credits too. The film is a suitable eventful exploitation ride- with largely relatable characters, a good twist and turning plot where no one is safe, and a great line of both tension and treat, that’s edged with both violence and light gore. Sure, some of the actings is as wooden as the woods much of the films set in, and some of the set-up’s are a little OTT and a little kooky. But this is exploitation, and you're not watching if for Oscar-winning acting, or the grand and the epic.
The film focuses on boyish teen Nancy Johnson (Melanie Verlin) who’s getting too much sleazy attention from her older butterball cop step-dad Bert (Lawrence Tierney). So, she decides to hitch to California to see her sister- she meets up with charming ‘n’ friendly Tom(John Hall), and his chip on his shoulder African American buddy Hank( C. Anthony Jackson)- they are travelling through the states in their van, so she gets a ride with them. On their journey, they steal food from local mini-marts, get hassled by red necks, and then come across a chuckling, tubby and bearded hill bill carrying a body shaped package through the woods. The three-stop off nearby this sighting to sleep for the night, and here’s when the trios issues really start- as they come across deranged cops, a creepy rural house- where sacrificial satanic rituals are carried out, people are kept in small dog cages, and there is something that was once a living human fed blood in the attic.
Sure, Midnight is not the most original or distinctive of films- as there are clear nods towards the likes of the first Texas Chain Saw, 70’s satanic terror pics, and deranged red neck thrillers. But the green-yet grim Pennsylvania rural setting is effective, the plot shifts along at a fair pace, no-one is safe from death, and on the whole, the film rolls along with good ‘n’ gritty exploitation flair.
Moving onto this new region free disc- and the new 4K scan looks marvellous, blending bright punchy colours, with more moody-yet- crisp greens and brows of the film's landscapes. On the extras side, we get a nice selection of stuff- first off there’s Making Midnight- this runs twenty-two minutes, and finds writer/ director Russo talking about the films production and issue they had, he talks about the film's actors, in particular, Lawrence Tierney who played the stepdad in the film, discussing his impressions of Alfred Hitchcock and been a general character. Next, we have Producing Midnight- ten minutes on-screen interview with Producer Samuel M. Sherman, The Midnight Killer- ten-minute interview with John Amplas who played one of the deranged cops, and Small Favour- an eight-minute with Make-Up Effects legend Tom Savini who did work on the film. There’s an Isolated Score selected Featuring An Audio Interview with Composer Mike Mazzei, alternative title credits, a trailer and an image gallery.
Midnight is a great slice of American exploitation pie with all the good stuff baked in. We’ve got a pacey/ eventful unfold, some creepy-to-sleazed characters, and a good dusting of violence and gore. The new 4k print is an even balanced mix of bright ‘n’ bold, and atmospheric ‘n’ creep.Roger Batty