• Midnight (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: September 28th, 2021.
    Director: John Russo
    Cast: Melanie Verlin, Lawrence Tierney, John Amplas, Lachele Carl, Charles Jackson, John Hall
    Year: 1982
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    Midnight – Movie Review:

    Written and directed by John Russo, 1982's Midnight opens with a scene where a young girl lies alone in a field, her leg caught in a bear trap. A mother and her four kids approach her. At first we think they're going to help her, but nope! She's dead, and we get to witness the family carry out a Satanic ceremony complete with pentagrams scrawled on their foreheads.

    Fast forward a decade or so and we meet a teenager named Nancy Johnson (Melanie Verlin) who lives with her kindly mother Harriet (Doris Hackney) and her hard drinking cop stepfather, Bert (Lawrence Tierney). When Bert comes home drunk one afternoon and tries to rape Nancy, she knocks him out and leaves home, hoping to hitchhike to California and stay with her sister. She's eventually picked up by Hank (Charles Jackson) and Tom (John Hall), two young men heading to Florida in a sweet van, the interior of which is covered in shag carpeting. No one has any money and so they essentially shoplift to survive, and when they get caught, wind up having to run from the cops in the aforementioned van (which somehow manages to outrun a police cruiser).

    Meanwhile, a hulking lunatic named Cyrus (David Marchick) is running about, killing off the kindly Reverend Cunningham (Bob Johnson) and then his daughter, Sandra (Lachele Carl). Eventually our three heroes wind up on the wrong side of 'cops' Abraham (John Amplas) and Luke ( Greg Besnak), and Nancy's only hope may lay with the very man who caused her to leave home in the first place.

    Featuring special effects by Tom Savini and a pretty cool score by Mike Mazzei, Midnight has alternately been known as The Backwoods Massacre and it’s an interesting and entertaining, if not always one hundred percent successful, low budget horror picture. At times it feels like it’s borrowing elements from films like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Mother’s Day, but by the time it’s all over and done with, Russo’s definitely doing his own thing. Throwing in the cult angle helps here, tying the ending into the beginning in a pretty decent way. The middle stretch where Nancy is hanging out with Tom and Hank drags a bit and the repetitive theme song doesn’t do the movie any favors, but the backroads and rural areas of Pennsylvania give the movie plenty of authentic atmosphere and generally speaking it always looks really good. The whole thing is very uneven, but even when it isn’t working as well as it should, it’s at least an interesting picture and it does make up for earlier mistakes pretty nicely in the final reel.

    As to the acting? Tierney is great here, but he’s not in in very long. The rest of the cast is pretty uneven but leading lady Melanie Verlin at least creates a likeable character. John Amplas, of Creepshow and Martin, is pretty decent here as well.

    Midnight – Blu-ray Review:

    Severin Films brings Midnight to region free Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.66.1 widescreen with the feature taking up 31.7GBs of space on the 50GB disc. Scanned and restored in 4k from the original 35mm negative, the picture quality here is really strong. There are some scenes that look softer than others but this is clearly due to how the movie was shot in the first place. You might spot some small white specks here and there if you’re looking for them but the vast majority of the time the image is very clean and showing almost no print damage. Compression artifacts are never a problem and the picture is free of any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement problems, always looking very much like film, as it should be. Overall, this transfer is really strong and fans should be pleased.

    English language audio tracks are provided in 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 options with removable subtitles provided in English only. The 5.1 mix spreads out the score and some of the effects into the rear channels but keeps pretty much all of the dialogue up front, while the 2.0 track obviously doesn’t offer any rear channel activity. Both tracks sound clean and properly balanced. No problems to note here, the audio isn’t super fancy per se, but it sounds just fine.

    A third audio track on the disc is a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 option that turns out to be a selection of isolated score material with some interview bits from composer Mike Mazzei moderated by Michael Felsher. The conversation between the two is interesting as it goes into detail not only on what Mazzei’s work on the film entailed and what he tried to bring to the project but also how he got into scoring films in the first place.

    Severin have also included a few video interview featurettes on the disc, the first of which is with writer/director John A. Russo, a twenty-three minute piece titled Making Midnight. This is a pretty extensive and genuinely interesting interview that covers how that team that put together Night Of The Living Dead came to cease working together, where he got some of the ideas for the movie from, his writing process, casting the movie, stepping behind the camera to direct the film, budgetary restraints, problems that arose on set, the film’s distribution and lots more.

    Producer Samuel M. Sherman is up next in the ten minute Producing Midnight featurette. Here the always entertaining Sherman talks about how he was responsible for getting Lawrence Tierney in the movie, how he came to acquire the movie, the novelization of the film that was published, changes that were made to the film at his behest and his thoughts on the movie and the cast overall.

    From there, we spend eleven minutes with actor John Amplas in The Midnight Killer piece. This featurette covers how he became friends with Russo before they worked on the film together, certain problems that arose on set that he was involved in, how he got along with his fellow cast members and quite a bit more.

    Last but not least, SFX artist Tom Savini gets nine minutes in front of the camera in the Small Favors featurette. Here we get to learn about how and why Savini agreed to take on the project even though he already had a lot on his plate during this stage in his career basically as a favor to Russo, who was a friend. He also talks about some of the makeup effects and appliances used in the film.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are a theatrical trailer for the feature (that uses the alternate ‘The Backwoods Massacre’ title card), menus and chapter selection options.

    Midnight – The Final Word:

    Midnight is an uneven but entertaining horror movie with some pretty memorable set pieces and quirky characters that make for a fun watch. Severin’s Blu-ray release is a revelation, looking far, far superior to any other home video release version the movie has seen thus far and it really is like seeing it again for the first time. Throw in a nice selection of extra features and this release should make fans of Russo’s underrated horror picture very happy indeed.

    Click on the images below for full-sized Midnight screen caps!