The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Thank you all for your patience, and again, hopefully this will all be fixed soon.

--Matt

Friday, July 15, 2011

Midnight Movie: The Killer Cut (2008/2011)

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This movie comes to us courtesy of the film's director, Jack Messitt, who sent me a copy of his Killer Cut for me to review, so I thank him for that. I haven't seen the original cut of the film, so I don't have a point of reference from which to compare the two, but according to him, if there's one I'm going to watch, this is the version. So without any further ado...

Midnight Movie is about a crazy man, Ted Radford (the baddie from Revenge of the Ninja), who is obsessed with the horror film he made back in the 70s. A psychologist examining him decides to show Ted his movie again, and all hell breaks loose, leading to a massacre at the mental hospital, and Ted missing. In the present, a cheap vintage movie theater has obtained a copy, and is giving it a midnight screening, prompting the investigating officer and the psychiatrist examining him to attend, hoping Ted will show up. Does he ever.

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Okay, so the first 65 minutes or so, I'm thinking this is one of the best horror films I've seen in a long time. It had everything: a great roller coaster ride vibe, tension and sound effects that made me wish I was watching it in the theater, cool genre characters, funny jokes, and this really great interplay between the present and the 70s movie. But it's at the 65 minute mark, when it looks like the movie is over, that we're suddenly transported into this modern day torture porn, where the main heroine is strapped to a table and having her toes cut off. Whoa! Hey, hold the phone here! It was like the Patriots losing the Super Bowl a few years ago. They score a touchdown and go ahead, and I'm all excited, but my buddy's like "dude, there's still over a minute left", and then some scrub catches a football with his forehead and my dream is dead. It was the same thing here, I'm thinking the movie is ending, it was amazing, and it's as if that same friend were sitting next to me saying "dude, there's still almost 15 minutes left..."

So how then do we split the baby here? It's not hyperbole when I say that the first 65 minutes or so was some of the best horror I've seen in I don't know how long; but it's because horror has moved in this other direction-- the strapping a chick down and cutting off her toes direction-- that I find so little in modern horror that works for me. When the credits rolled with that SpikeTV UFC Fight Night metal band-style song, it was as if that first 65 minutes existed 15-20 years ago in another movie, and I had to remind myself how great that was in contrast to what I was seeing after. I just loved the way the bulk of the film dealt with the subject of horror movies and the whole "what if they're real?" phenomenon, the way we as kids were afraid to sleep after seeing Nightmare on Elm Street or go camping after Friday the 13th, and so to have it take such a left turn was disconcerting. It was almost like the best man toast that was so great-- until the best man mentions that guys' weekend in Vegas...

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One of the things I loved about this was how well it played with the space of the old movie theater. The seats, the hallways, the basement, the bathroom, the projector room. I would've liked to see more of it actually, people's bodies dumped in the popcorn maker, or dropped from the balcony, or have their severed head stuffed in the toilet. But the essence of going to a smaller theater, the quaintness, the anti-consumerism/big budget Hollywood feel that we love about not going to the massive multiplex with stadium seating and 3D screens and $8 candy bars, was all there, and I appreciated that. Almost made me want to go to the movie theater again.

Another thing along those lines that really worked for me was the 70s-style horror movie that was shot and added into the film. The idea of the killer from a movie coming to life and killing everyone in the audience sounds like a very obvious place to go for writing a script, and something that could easily be mishandled and turned into a trite mess, but Midnight Movie did an excellent job with that aspect and actually went beyond to make it into something truly original and entertaining. It reminded me of how funny horror movies could be, but also how tense and scary, something that was a hallmark of the genre in the 80s and 90s, but isn't as common now.

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The one DTV mainstay of sorts in the film was Arthur Roberts, who as I mentioned above played the main baddie in Revenge of the Ninja with Shô Kosugi. He's also done the David Bradley classic Hard Justice, and the Don "The Dragon" Wilson flick Capitol Conspiracy. Unfortunately he's gonzo after the first scene-- after he chews a chunk out of his wrist and writes some crazy crap in blood on the floor of the hospital. It's interesting that we had that over-the-top George Romero zombie-style gore there, then the bulk of the film is 80s/90s slasher style stuff, and then we wrap up with a little torture porn. You've probably figured out where my tastes lie when it comes to that stuff.

It's funny how the reviews here at the DTVC can dovetail in unexpected ways. The guy below is Daniel Bonjour. Doesn't ring a bell, does it? He played the annoying kid in yesterday's post, Project Shadowchaser II-- again, not an indictment on him, just an indictment on the roles kids have in action movies. He's grown up now, and gets to play the main heroine's boyfriend. There is a kid in this though, the main heroine's younger brother. Does my annoying kid rule apply to horror films? Pretty much. I can only think of two exceptions: Corey Feldman in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, and Danielle Harris in Halloween 4 and 5. I thought for a second this might be another exception, when it looked like the kid might have a part to play in the plot, but his contribution turned out to be a false resolution, leaving us back where we started. Overall, my pet peeve still stands: kids do more to hurt a film than help it; but I'll add the caveat here that the kid in this was closer to 50/50 hurt/help, as I'll get into below.

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One of the things the horror film is most known for is the nude scene. A girl gets naked, and then she gets killed. This movie had a lot of women in it, all very attractive, but only one got naked, and in some ways that scene was used as a nostalgia or parody piece. Only the kid is in the theater for it, and he makes a special trip to sneak away to see it, very much like we all did at around his age, when we were too young to get porn, and there was no Internet for that kind of thing. As an adult it feels kind of perfunctory and gratuitous-- not that I'm complaining, just calling it like it is--, but this movie was able to capture that essence of twenty years ago, reminding me what the nude scene used to be to me, and that was really cool.

There was a lot of really cool about this movie, and for that reason, I'm going to recommend it. I personally thought the end hurt the overall quality, but until that point, I felt like the modern horror genre wasn't a complete lost cause, and that alone is pretty huge for me; and maybe you won't be as turned off by the toes cutting off either, it might just be my issue. I believe that the Killer Cut is not available from Netflix, only the original, so if you want to check out the Killer Cut you'll have to buy it, and I suggest you get it directly from the site, www.midnightmovie.com. The DVD has all kinds of extras, including the director's commentary, so you're getting a good amount for your money.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0981224/

10 comments:

  1. Yeah, this film was pretty good up until the lousy ending, which just felt incredibly half-assed to me, i'm not a fan of kids in horror films either, though this one bothered me slightly less then most.

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  2. Dude, this is the kind of thoughtful review that I relish....
    Excellent work. Seriously.

    I have not seen (or even heard of) this film, but now I want to check it out.

    It's cool that the director sent you a copy like that. Always neat to be contacted by a filmmaker. It's only happened to me twice, but those reviewing experiences were among my most memorable.

    Again, good job!

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  3. Wow, Andrew, thank you very much, I appreciate it. Yeah, this is my second director submission as well, the other being Albert Pyun's Cyborg Director's Cut and Bulletface. I agree about the experience, especially because I think it puts he onus on us as the reviewer to want to prove that we're worthy of having a copy sent to us, and put that extra effort in. I'm glad you dug it.

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  4. Hi Matt,

    Thank you for the very thoughtful review! I'm glad you liked MIDNIGHT MOVIE:THE KILLER CUT - well, the first 65 minutes anyway...

    I'm sorry that the last few scenes almost ruined the movie for you. I totally agree with your assessment of the torture porn phase of horror. It is nowhere close to my favorite type of horror film. Then why is it in MIDNIGHT MOVIE you ask?

    I know that I talked about it in the original cut's DVD commentary. But in trying to give the fans something different, I don't think I mentioned it in the new commentary track on THE KILLER CUT. So let me explain.

    Overall, I wanted MIDNIGHT MOVIE to be the fun ride I remember the 80s slasher films to be. I think that we tried to update that formula to work today, but you can’t help but see both the FRIDAY THE 13TH and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series in our film. This is the part I think you enjoyed...

    Before shooting began, I decided to set up the kills in the movie to mirror the history of horror. In the beginning, you see just before and just after, like early Hollywood. But as the decades moved on, Hollywood’s kills got more and more gory. So do the kills in MIDNIGHT MOVIE.

    But when I started on that road, I felt it necessary to go all the way. And yes, we do get all the way to the “torture porn. " But I didn't want it to become Hostel. I pulled back in a way that most "torture porn" movies rarely do. While it is one of the creepier scenes in the movie, there is a surprisingly small amount of gore. I think that most people think that scene is a lot gorier than it really is (a lot like the reaction to the shower scene in PSYCHO). It just goes to show you that the mind will fill in the blanks in a far worse way than a filmmaker can.

    Anyway, that is why it's there...

    I sincerely appreciate you spreading the word about the movie.

    Cheers,

    Jack Messitt
    Director - Midnight Movie: The Killer Cut

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  5. Hi Jack, thank you again for sending me your movie. I should clarify, the last scene didn't ruin the movie for me, so much as give me pause, because as far as that fun ride of the 80s slasher movie that the bulk of the film was, you accomplished that exceptionally well, and I really enjoyed it.

    I actually had a sense that you included the "torture porn" scene for the reasons you just gave, after I wrote the paragraph on Arthur Roberts, and it donned on me that you had that progression from 70s Romero, to 80s/90s slasher, to the modern torture porn. I should've probably rewrote the earlier paragraphs to reflect that, but I figured I'd go with what I did, which was an overall recommendation, with a warning that that scene is in there in case that kind of thing turns you off; but either way, I didn't want people to miss this movie, because I really was excited about what I saw leading up to it.

    I appreciate you clearing it up though, and I think I'm not as averse to its inclusion after that explanation. Can't wait to see what you have next.

    All the best,
    Matt

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  6. Yeah, this is a sleeper of a low budget horror film that is slightly better than you'd expect at (almost) every turn. It would make a good double feature with Popcorn.

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  7. I've wanted to check this one out for ages. Had no idea there was a Killer Cut. Jack, is the Killer Cut available for purchase?

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  8. It's available for purchase from the website, www.midnightmovie.com. It's listed at $12.99, but i don't know what the shipping to Australia would be.

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  9. Nice write-up. I watched the original cut back in the day when it came out on DVD, and I remember not liking it very much, but yet I've been itching to check out this new cut.

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  10. According to Jack, this is the one you need to see then.

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