Midnight (1982)

Melanie Verlin, Lawrence Tierney, John Hall, Charles Jackson,
A young woman fleeing her sexually abusive stepfather hitches a ride with two young men, but the three soon find themselves at the mercy of a backwoods Satanic cult.
  • 4.9 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Writer:
  • John A. Russo, Director:
  • Donald Redinger, Producer:

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6 / 10

Hitch-hiking for Idiots Lesson One: make sure you're heading in the right direction.

When drunken cop Bert Johnson (Lawrence Tierney) makes sexual advances towards his teenage stepdaughter Nancy (the rather boyish Melanie Verlin), she packs her bags and sets off to see her sister in California, hitching a ride with Tom and Hank (John Hall and Charles Jackson), two college students on their way to Florida (!?!?). After a night camping out under the stars, the trio fall foul of a family of redneck Satanists who are ritually sacrificing young women to try and resurrect their dead mother.

With a screenplay and direction from John A. Russo, writer of seminal horror classic Night of the Living Dead, and make-up effects from genre legend Tom Savini, one might reasonably expect Midnight to deliver the goods in terms of terror and gore, but sadly it fails to deliver on both counts: Russo's script, based on his own novel, suffers from a dreadfully dull first half and the guy is clearly no Romero when calling the shots behind the camera, consistently failing to deliver the requisite chills; Savini also disappoints, his gore FX on this project being far from his best work (I can only presume that he knocked them out on the cheap as a favour to Russo).

It's not all a total loss though: the film's pace picks up considerably once Nancy and pals meet the devil-worshipping backwoods clan (a memorable group consisting of two nutters posing as cops, a demented babe, and a fat guy in dungarees who can't stop laughing), and bonus points are scored for a willingness to tackle the taboo, a few surprisingly brutal deaths, and a cool grind-house vibe achieved through cruddy picture quality and a menacing, lo-fi synthesiser score (the horribly dated theme song, on the other hand, is simply atrocious and only serves to irritate).

5.5 out of 10, rounded up to 6 for IMDb.

7 / 10

Look Ma, I caught us some jailbait!

Thoroughly unoriginal, primitive and nasty, yet compelling and strangely unsettling, "Midnight" truly is the masterwork of novelist John A. Russo. The co-writer of the legendary horror classic "Night of the Living Dead" always somewhat stood in the shadow of George A. Romero, but "Midnight" is his very own and personalized venture into the depths of grisly backwoods-horror and uncanny rednecks. Russo clearly didn't have much of a budget to work with, yet he manages to create a gripping atmosphere through eerily isolated locations, appalling characters and moody music. And even though you've endured the routine story - centering on a family of demented social outcasts terrorizing travelers - at least a dozen times before, Russo's screenplay still manages to deliver a handful of efficient frights and shocking moments. The great (late) Lawrence Tierney stars as an aggressive drunken pervert, and yet his character is one of the good guys, since the others are inbred Satanists, hoodlum teenagers and unfriendly hillbillies. When Bert Johnson once again attempts to rape his under-aged stepdaughter, the girl flees and hitchhikes her way down South. She fetches a ride in the van of two young boys, who rob grocery stores for fun, and together they end up in a little town where none of the inhabitants have any of their original teeth left. Deeply hidden in the woods surrounding this town, there lives a crazed family of devil-worshipers who're collecting female virgins to sacrifice to our Lord Satan on Easter Sunday. Why? Because their late mother taught them to do this, of course! "Midnight" is derivative of "Psycho", "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", "Deliverance" and a truckload of other grindhouse 70's flicks. So much even that it feels like you're watching a genuine 70's drive-in feature! Despite released during the early 80's, "Midnight" features the soundtrack, photography and narrative style of a typically trashy 70's horror cinema. John Russo implements a raw and brutal filming style, with disturbing images of country folks and graphic violence. Tom Savini (old friends with Russo and Romero) was in charge of the make-up effects, so you just know there will be some deliciously succulent massacres on display. In one particularly nasty scene, the camera zooms in on one of the depraved hicks slicing a young girl's throat with a rusty saw. How can any fan of horror cinema resist that? By no means "Midnight" will ever be considered a classic, but it's tremendous fun none the less.

7 / 10

You're all alone, and midnight's at your door!

This is actually a pretty good low budget horror film. It does bear the marks of a regional production (filmed in Pennsylvania), complete with the (mostly) amateurish acting that fans come to expect in such a thing. It does indeed start slow, so people may have a hard time sticking with it, but it's worth it in the end. The story is a familiar one, but is well realized by writer / director John A. Russo (an associate of George A. Romero who'd co-written the classic "Night of the Living Dead"), who adapted his own novel. Tom Savini supplies some typically well done splatter, but certainly the best aspect to the presentation are the very rural settings that give "Midnight" some potent atmosphere.

Melanie Verlin - in the first of only two movie roles - stars as Nancy, who has to live with a policeman stepfather (legendary tough guy and wildman Lawrence Tierney) who's a lecherous alcoholic. After he harasses her, she runs away from home, hooking up with seemingly nice young guys Tom (John Hall) and Hank (Charles Jackson). After they get her involved with their (mild) life of crime, she ends up in the backwoods where she's soon abducted by backward Satan worshipping lunatics. This lovely bunch of people force their victims into too-small cages in preparation for sacrifices to their dark lord.

One thing from this movie that people will likely remember the most is that staggeringly silly theme song that's heard a few times. Otherwise, this is pretty fun to watch. It's always a hoot to see Tierney in action, especially when his less-than-honourable character becomes an unlikely heroic figure. There's some delicious creepiness going on throughout, and Catholicism is a big theme. Nancy isn't an innocent type, but falls back on prayer when things look their bleakest. Verlin is reasonably appealing, but the standouts are obviously the antagonists: David Marchick as portly and bearded Cyrus, Greg Besnak as bald headed Luke, and John Amplas, star of Romero's "Martin", as Abraham. The electronic music score is priceless stuff.

The climactic action has its fair share of tension, but ultimately "Midnight" ends a little too abruptly. But until then it proves to be decent entertainment.

Seven out of 10.

7 / 10

Highly entertaining eighties exploitation!

Midnight was released in 1982, but it's every bit a seventies style backwoods exploitation flick; and while the movie does feature a whole host of problems; it makes for extremely fun viewing and the way that the plot moves ensures that the film never becomes boring. I'm a big fan of films like this because you can never really tell what's coming; and while the plot of this film doesn't make logical progressions, it certainly does manage to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. The central plot focuses on a young girl named Nancy Johnson. Nancy has a 'bad experience' with her stepfather - one that involves him groping her and her resisting his advances. She decides to flee her family home and hits the road where, after coming across one driver who wants to book a motel with her, she comes across two young lads in a van. They give her lift and convince her to travel with them to Florida; but after a run in with the law, the trio find themselves out in the woods, where it just so happens that some murders have been committed...

The film is directed by John A. Russo; the man behind a handful of trashy exploitation flicks, as well as a writing credit for classic horror Night of the Living Dead. His writing and direction on this film is not brilliant; but he does manage to pack a lot of different story elements into the film and he has succeeded in making it entertaining; and you cant ask for much more than that from an eighties exploitation flick. It's clear that the director didn't have much of a budget to work with; and the film does look very cheap, although this is repaid by a grubby and fetid atmosphere which really does the film a lot of favours. Midnight is thoroughly unpleasant throughout (the soundtrack being the only exception!) and there's not one innocent character in it, which adds to the unpleasantness. The cast is nothing to write home about; although cult cinema fans will no doubt recognise Lawrence Tierney as the amorous step dad. Overall, this film falls somewhat short of being a must see; but it makes for a good watch and is a hell of a lot better than it's reputation suggests! Recommended.

7 / 10

Definitely the best horror film made by John A. Russo.

Nancy's father,who is a police officer,tries to rape her.She smashes him in the head with the phone and heads off to hitchhike to her sister's place.Nancy eventually gets in with a pair of regular guys heading down to Florida.They wind up in the wrong part of the woods and meet a group of devil worshipping Satanists intent on completing an Easter Day sacrifice."Midnight" is a surprisingly bleak and disturbing horror film.It's obviously inspired by "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and Wes Craven's "The Hills Have Eyes".The acting is bad and the score is awful,however there is enough violence and gritty atmosphere to satisfy fans of early 80's backwoods slasher flicks.There is a little bit of gore including decapitation and throat slashing,but nothing really impressive.7 out of 10.