Jacob, an anemic night watchman with a rare skin disease, meets Mary, a bartender, caterer, and Blow Pop sales girl. The pair begins a romantic tryst which is constantly interrupted by Jacob’s strange proclivities. Mary brings out Jacob’s talent for art and encourages him to showcase some of his work. Jacob finds new meaning through his artistic abilities but also begins to develop an insatiable lust for blood and superhuman strength. Naturally, he tries to hide his unusual new character traits from Mary. But, Mary becomes suspicious and begins to resent Jacob’s secrecy. Their relationship seems doomed for failure, from the get go, but Jacob and Mary give it their best shot.
I went in to Midnight Son expecting to like it. I even wanted to like it. The film has received several rave reviews and garnered comparisons to George A. Romero’s Martin, however, I cannot share the same sentiment.
Midnight Son has a very low budget feel to it. I’m not opposed to low budget filmmaking. In fact, Ti West’s The House of The Devil is one of my favorite films of the past ten years, and it was shot on a micro-budget. But, in spite of the budgetary constraints, West leveraged the strengths of his performers, created great ambiance, and played on the viewers’ mounting sense of dread. Midnight Son does not excel in ambiance or performance. And, the only dread I felt was for me was knowing I would have to finish the entire film. I found myself looking at the clock a record number of times before Midnight Son was over.
The characters are not likeable. Jacob shows minimal remorse for his despicable deeds, and Mary is a coked out floozy who doesn’t ever find much, in the way of, moral high ground. I kept waiting for some kind of profound self discovery in Jacob’s character arc and it never really happened.
I’m not a fan of excessive back story. In fact, too much back story can ruin a film. Part of what made 1974′s Black Christmas great was the fact that it didn’t over-explain the details. But, Midnight Son provides virtually no explanation for anything, leaving the viewer wondering how the series of events, that take place in the film, were set in motion. The ending was the same way. I sat through Midnight Son expecting some type of explanation or rhyme or reason and walked away empty handed. There is something to be said for leaving a film open for interpretation, but its something else, all together, to rob viewers of an hour and a half of their time without so much as a ‘how do you do?’
The acting was really bad. I’m not terribly critical of performance, particularly in horror films. Sometimes, bad acting can even provide a certain nostalgia for the slasher films of the late ’70s and early ’80s, but that wasn’t the case with this one. It just comes off as poorly trained actors working on a tight shooting schedule under less than deft direction. None of the characters, primary or supporting, give off any sense of likeability or provide the viewer with any way to relate to their situation. The performances all felt as stiff as corrugated cardboard. Throughout much of the film, I was reminded of watching a student film project. Midnight Son wouldn’t be completely awful as a student film, but as a professional release, it leaves much to be desired. In fact, going the short film route would have proved a better fate for Midnight Son.
The effects look like someone purchased some vampire teeth, blood capsules, and paint guns at the local craft and hardware stores. I, again, reiterate that I don’t fault the film for its budgetary constraints. I do, however, expect the film makers to dazzle the viewer with creativity or story line or something, in exchange for their understanding in regards to the lack of a budget. That just didn’t happen, here. Also, Midnight Son was downright nauseating. Jacob drinks blood directly from a Starbucks cup in one scene. The thought of blood sucking is something we are fairly accustomed to, but to watch the main character drink it, like a cup of coffee actually turns my stomach, a little. The use of more conventional vampire customs would have been a welcome change to the film’s chosen approach.
Midnight Son will debut on FEARnet on January 21. You can certainly check it out, but I cannot, in good conscience, recommend doing so. You would be better off re-watching Martin or the original Fright Night (which Midnight Son actually shows a short clip from in the beginning scenes).