• Midnight Game, The



    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
    Released on: August 12, 2014

    Directed by: A.D. Calvo
    Cast: Renee Olstead, Shelby Young, Guy Wilson
    Year: 2013
    Purchase from Amazon

    The Movie

    A group of teenagers learn not to trust YouTube as a source of authentic pagan rituals, in writer-director A.D. Calvo's supernatural horror film, The Midnight Game.

    The movie begins in a high school library as high-school jock Shane (Guy Wilson) watches a creepy YouTube video that looks like an outtake from The Ring. The video depicts a girl with a pentagram carved on her back, sitting and rocking back and forth in a ring of what looks like salt. After getting spooked by the girl in the video, Shane gets a call from his girlfriend Jenna (Valentina de Angelis), who tells him that their friend Kaitlan (Renee Olstead) is throwing a party later that night because her mom is out of town on business. The film then transitions to Kaitlan's house, which is an ominous two-story isolated in a woodland area. Jenna and Rose (Shelby Young), the movie's token goth girl, arrive just seconds after Kaitlan's mom leaves for her trip. The girls settle in, order pizza, and are disturbed by some noises outside the house, which turns out to be Shane and his friend Jeff (Spencer Daniels).

    The girls thought that they were in for a night of beers and maybe spin the bottle, but Shane has other ideas. The video he was watching in the library was of a pagan ritual called The Midnight Game, which is like Bloody Mary or The Candyman, but with a psychological twist. Shane convinces his friends to watch the video, and then persuades them to play the game. Before they start, they each talk a bit about what they fear the most. Rose is afraid of seeing ghosts, Jenna is terrified of going insane, and so on. We don't get to know what everyone's worst fear is, but since this is a horror movie, it's obviously going to play into the proceedings.

    The movie claims to be "Based on True Events," and a quick bit of online research shows that The Midnight Game probably originated from Reddit (specifically, http://www.reddit.com/r/Nosleep), Creepypasta, or like the Slender Man mythos, it began on a message board and expanded from there. I suspect that in this case, “Based on True Events,” means "based on what people have claimed as truth on Reddit," but I digress. There are a specific set of rules to The Midnight Game and the movie glosses over them, but touches on the key points: you have to draw your own blood onto a piece of paper, light a candle, knock on the front door of a home 22 times, 22 seconds before midnight, and keep your candle lit for the rest of the night until 3:33. If your candle goes out, it's because a spectral character called The Midnight Man snuffed it out. You have 10 seconds to relight the candle, or else you start to live out your worst fears. The only way to ward off this from happening if your candle goes out, is to sit in a ring of salt until enough time passes.

    Of course, when the teens in the movie play The Midnight Game, being teens in a horror movie, their candles go out and things start to go very wrong for them. The lights in the house won't turn on; there are loud banging sounds coming from upstairs; and the girls think they saw the Midnight Man leering at them through a window downstairs. The kids start freaking the fuck out. Rose draws a circle of salt and they huddle together within it, except when they wake up at 3:33 all of the kids have fallen outside the circle. The nightmare continues into the next day, as Rose begins hallucinating, Jeff goes missing, and Jenna starts losing her mind. Shane convinces them to play The Midnight Game again that night, in the hopes that if they play the game right this time, they will be able to stop it from bringing their worst fears to life.

    At 74 minutes long, The Midnight Game is an effective exercise in psychological horror done well on a low-budget. The story will have you questioning what is real several times throughout the movie, as the effects of The Midnight Game cause everyone to become an unreliable point of view. In this regard, The Midnight Game is somewhat reminiscent The Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows, only this is a much better take on a similar premise. The Midnight Game doesn't have a lot of style, but for what it lacks in style, The Midnight Game develops a distinct sense of unease that is carried throughout the entire movie. The cast of young unknowns are asked to react naturally and realistically to the situation the movie puts them through. With the exception of Valentina de Angelis, whose turn as Jenna goes a bit too far in establishing her as crazy, the cast handle their roles very well and their relative inexperience is never an issue. Ultimately, by eschewing special effects and cheap gore in favor of tension and atmosphere, The Midnight Game feels more sophisticated than a lot of similar low-budget horror films. The conclusion isn't as terrifying as it could have been, but if you're open to it, The Midnight Game might get under you skin.

    Audio/Video/Extras

    The Midnight Game is presented on DVD by Anchor Bay in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality of this MPEG-2 AVC encoded transfer is about average for a low-budget movie shot on digital equipment. For the most part, the picture is clear and there is a decent amount of detail visible onscreen without a lot of compression artifacts. The worst sequences in terms of detail are those shot in the woods, as there just isn't enough information on this DVD to effectively convey all the visual detail in otherwise well-shot scenes. Colors look natural, however due to the lightning choices made by the filmmakers they tend to look a bit drab and darker scenes favor a cooler color palette. If there is one major issue with the visual presentation of The Midnight Game, it's that the movie is just too dark. It's not especially well lit, and there isn't enough shadow detail to really convey a lot of the image when it's covered in darkness. The image is passable of course and doesn't really impede the viewing experience but you won't come away from watching it thinking that it was an especially stylish film or that the visual presentation was anything above average.

    The audio presentation for The Midnight Game is most definitely an improvement over its image quality. The film's only audio source is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, however this shouldn't really be an issue for most as the audio sounds great. The sound design in the film is very immersive, and uses the dynamics of a 5.1 audio setup very effectively to create tension and atmosphere through the use of sound. The volume levels are good, although I'd suggest turning the volume up just to increase the tension even more. The Midnight Game is viewable with English SDH or Spanish subtitles. There are no special features included on this disc.

    The Final Word

    The Midnight Game is a small scale but effective supernatural horror film. It takes some familiar elements from movies like The Ring (haunted recordings) and The Blair Witch 2 (memory loss, pagan rituals), but bases its main source of horror on an internet urban myth. Fans of atmospheric indie horror, or online haunts like Creepypasta and r/NoSleep should light a candle, knock on the DVD case 22 times, and give The Midnight Game a watch.