The Midnight Man (2016)
★ / ★★★★
“The Midnight Man,” written and directed by Travis Zariwny, is yet another horror film with potential but one that ultimately fails to deliver. It dares to set the story over the course of one night inside one house, but the types of scares it employs are too safe and predictable. Coupled with a deathly soporific slow pacing, it incurs boredom rather than curiosity or even mild terror. And whose idea is it to allow the titular character to speak?
It makes the mistake of making the final girl to be quite dull. Alex (Gabrielle Haugh) is a nursing student who decides to postpone her studies for the time being in order to take care of her grandmother who has dementia. It is established early on that she is the nice girl, the one who does the right thing, the one with common sense. But once the character stumbles upon the box that contains candles, a needle, a sheet of paper with names, and a list of instructions detailing how to summon The Midnight Man, what we come to know about the character is thrown out the window and Alex is reduced to just another potential victim who fumbles about. There is no strength, cleverness, or resourcefulness that radiates from her. In the middle of it, I wondered why she is a character worth following.
Perhaps it might have been a more interesting choice to make Grandmother Anna the central protagonist provided that the screenplay undergoes significant revisions. The old woman who is losing her mental faculties is played by the great Lin Shaye, but the character is so thinly written that the veteran performer ends up relying on hyperbolic screaming and yelling. And yet despite this, the grandmother is more interesting than the granddaughter because those eyes cannot help but tell a story even when all the lights in a room are turned off. Experience shines through even in the most incompetently made pictures.
To its credit, the film is not completely composed of jump scares. I enjoyed patient moments, for instance, when the camera focuses on a figure, covered with a white sheet as if it were a ghost, that is standing in the background. I liked how practical effects are employed even during the most ostentatious display of blood. However, the look of The Midnight Man is not at all scary or even slightly curious. The level of CGI makes it look campy and fake. Adding a growly voice to an already ridiculous sight, it becomes a challenge not to snicker or laugh.
Perhaps the picture’s worst offender is the expository dialogue. No one talks like a regular person; someone is always explaining something. As a result, there is no flow to the dialogue. Worse, we fail to relate with the characters because words that come out of their mouths almost always serve to further the plot. And yet the plot fails to go anywhere interesting. It is stuck in performing the same old tricks that cease to work only a half an hour into it. It is truly an experience to be endured.