★★★3/4 out of ★★★★★
What if Rhonda Shear or Joe Bob Briggs were harbingers of the apocalypse?
Elvira. Rhonda Shear. John Zacherle. Nigel Honeybone. Mr. Lobo. Joe Bob Briggs. Seemingly decent folks whose job it is to bring campy, late-night horror into our houses through our TV sets. What if our favorite purveyors of B-movie schlock were actually otherworldly beings set on the enslavement and/or eradication of humankind?
This homage to the late-night B-movie horror shows of the 80s and 90s will be playing on November 17th for a midnight showing at the Buried Alive Film Festival in Atlanta, GA and I highly suggest you try to catch it.
To be completely honest, I judged a book by its cover with this one. It was the funny title of this anthology movie, Dead by Midnight (11pm Central), that grabbed my attention when the BAFF2018 cruë gave our Scariest Reviewers a chance to check out some of this year’s celluloid fare, but seriously… bring a friend, grab a brew (before, if necessary, I don’t know how Georgia film festivals work), and see this movie.
The stories go something like this….
The Jersey Devil
Directed by Tony Reames.
Written by Davi Crimmins & Tony Reames.
Eleven women have gone missing in the pine forests of New Jersey. The media and the police suspect a serial killer. Dani [Davi Crimmins in her first and, hopefully, not last appearance as writer/actor], a waitress from the Oak Pointe Grill, knows it’s much, much worse.
This was a fun one. Davi Crimmins did a great job as did Joseph Lavender [Ghost Witch (2015)] who played “Pops”. The writing was snappy, the story hustled right along, and the special effects were better than expected from something with hardly any budget.
Directed by Eric Davis.
Three friends get more than they bargained for when exploring a haunted house full of creepy dolls. Now Ben [Andrew Puckett; The Neon Dead (2017)] has to convince others that the threat is real.
Another decent story. The acting in Creepy Dolls is stronger than any of the other stories with Andrew Puckett putting in a good performance alongside fellow haunted house explorer, Johnson [Alan J. Sanders; The Neon Dead (2017)], and Johnson’s biggest fan, Sebastian [Dajour Ashwood; Gentrification (2018)].
Directed by Jay Holloway.
Written by Torey Haas & Jay Holloway.
April [Melissa Oulton; Dekiru: The Three Stones (2017)] suspects that her annoying and mean-spirited roommate, Amy [Jillian-Van Blair], has been stealing her clothes. Hoping to catch her in the act, April dives into an investigation of the crime; learning too late that she should’ve left well enough alone.
Interesting story that probably could’ve used a bit more time for explanation. The two leading ladies do a decent job and the special effects are fun (stop motion?! nice!), but it feels like things got a little slap-dash at the end.
Directed by Anissa Matlock.
Written by Anissa Matlock.
Ellie [Anissa Matlock; TV’s The Gifted (2017)] is discovered in the basement of an abandoned building after having been missing for a month. When she finds out she’s pregnant, she’s convinced it’s not a human baby and desperately wants it removed. Unfortunately, the “baby” has other ideas.
As the weakest and least coherent of the lot, Day Three suffered from being shoehorned into its short-film format. Michael Aaron Milligan [TV’s The Gifted (2017)] does a good job as Ellie’s boyfriend and, while Matlock’s story idea might not be the most original, who doesn’t love some fun body horror now and then? Sadly, the pacing is off, important ideas go unexplained, and the ending feels rushed.
Directed by Torey Haas.
Written by Melissa Oulton.
Rebecca [Jenni McCarthy] is staying alone at her boyfriend’s place for the weekend and she wakes up in the middle of the night to discover that her glasses have gone missing. All but blind, she’s now being stalked through the house by a mysterious, blurry shape.
Written by “April” from the Lost Laundry segment, this one allowed the anthology to end on a reasonably high note. Jenni McCarthy is more or less on her own in this short film since the shadowy shape is mostly, well, shadowy, and she manages to keep things interesting. The special effects here were decent and the Blur-O-Vision camera work showing what the world looked like from Rebecca’s perspective was a nice touch. Overall, it’s a solid entry.
Of course, any anthology movie worth its salt encapsulates its short film segments with an overarching story. This story is what ties everything together to make it feel like a cohesive film.
Enter: the Mistress of Midnight [Erin Brown; Sinful (2006), Strip Club Massacre (2017)]. Hired through Instagram to host the annual Halloween horror movie marathon at WKIZ, she’s the hostess with the mostest, the diva of darkness, the femme fatale of fright. She controls the vertical, she controls the horizontal, and she’s the one holding the whole thing together in Dead by Midnight (11pm Central).
While Brown’s performance may outshine the rest, that doesn’t mean the rest are phoning it in. Ronny Mathew [The Run Saga: Breathe (2014)] who plays David, one of the production managers at WKIZ, also does a particularly good job.
A unique aspect of Dead by Midnight (11pm Central) which I don’t remember seeing in an anthology movie before (and probably helped keep costs down) was how actors from the overarching story would show up in some of the short film segments.
They attempted to explain it as something the Mistress of Midnight was doing; pulling people from the real world into these televised horror segments. The explanation wasn’t particularly convincing, but it didn’t matter. Weaving the cast members throughout the movie in various roles really made the whole collection feel more organic.
If you plan to be in Atlanta, GA at midnight on November 17th, head on over to the Buried Alive Film Fest and catch this movie. Hey, what else are you going to do at midnight?