A teenage girl discovers an old game in her grandmother’s attic. Bored and restless, she and her two friends decide to play the game – The Midnight Man – not knowing the evil they are about to unleash. The film opens in 1953 with three small children playing a game in the attic. Two of the children are horrifically killed by the Midnight Man, leaving the one little girl alive. Jump to present day and the little girl is now an old woman living in the same house with her granddaughter who takes care of her. Lo and behold, the grandmother has been plotting to get her granddaughter killed by playing the very same game that once killed her friends. Don’t ask me why because they don’t explain it beyond as a side effect of her dementia (yeah, right). There will be spoilers ahead.
The opening scene is actually pretty strong in terms of suspense and sheer brutality, but that is quickly ruined by the acting once they jump to the present day. The use of practical effects is very impressive, especially in the scenes in which the Midnight Man is torturing his victims with their greatest fears. The Midnight Man himself is a dark, towering being that reminds me of Scarecrow from the ‘Batman Arkham’ video games. Actually, the voice they give him also reminds me of some video game boss that constantly taunts the player. While that voice might work in a video game, I found it to be a detriment to the movie. Instead of scary he sounds, well, corny. Putting his voice aside, he is a ruthless, demented killing machine that could actually work in a horror franchise. Before that could happen, though, they need to iron out his backstory and the source of this “game” to the audience. I’m not a big fan of movies that make me feel like I walked into the middle of a story already in progress, especially if the film doesn’t bother explaining it later on.
What this movie has in effects and cinematography it lacks in writing and acting. Several scenes don’t make sense, or worse, attempt to address plot holes but then stop for some reason. We know the grandmother played the game when she was little, but in the scene immediately following that one, she’s already an old woman. Why wait so long to get her granddaughter and her friends to play the game? Hell, why even get her granddaughter to play at all? Not only that, but the grandmother apparently got her daughter and husband killed playing the game, too. What the fuck, grandma? At one point her granddaughter actually asks her why she got so many people killed and the grandma just screams like a looney toon, so no resolution there. They do a good job of portraying the grandmother as a giant bitch to her granddaughter, but it still doesn’t add up why she would wait so long to try to kill her. There’s no special time or date, like the anniversary of when the game was played or whatever; she just randomly decides today’s the day to get her granddaughter killed.
This is only the first of many unanswered questions that are left with me after watching this movie. For instance, there is one scene in which the granddaughter was emptying pots in a leaky room that bugged me. Water was dripping from pipes into bowls that the granddaughter would then empty into larger bowls that were sitting right next to the smaller ones. Why wouldn’t she just put the bigger fucking bowl under the leaking water to begin with? It doesn’t make any sense. She would save herself half the effort she’s putting into it. Also, what was the end result of the opening scene of the movie? We see the grandmother as a little girl, and then see her two friends die in absolutely horrific ways, but what happened after that? What happened when her parents came home to find a severed head in the attic and massive, blood-stained lawn outside? Were her parents already dead? If so, how did she provide for herself for all those years? I’m assuming she won the game since she lived to be an old woman, but some exposition would be appreciated.
I mentioned I had issues with the acting. Well, it’s really just the acting of the girl playing the main character – the granddaughter. It’s bad. It’s so bad that I actually felt embarrassed for her having to read her lines in the same presence as Lin Shaye and Robert Englund. According to IMDb, this was only her second acting credit ever, and her first acting role as the main character, so I’m inclined to give her some room for error, but she was abysmal. I feel like the movie as a whole was hindered by the acting of this one girl. She somehow managed to destroy any sense of suspense built up in a scene by just opening her mouth. I seriously want to know how she made it past the audition and obtained this role, given that the director clearly cared about taking this movie seriously. Instead of sitting on the edge of my seat in suspense, I found myself wishing she would just die already and save me from the dull monotony she brought to each of her expressionless lines. I can’t even blame it on bad writing or lack of direction, because it was obvious she doesn’t have the talent.
The opening scene got my hopes up, I just wish they had sourced better talent for the main character and spent a little more time with character development and backstory. I really wanted to like this movie. Hey, at least everyone dies in the end.
This movie is…
Not enough redeeming qualities to make up for the ones it lacks.
Cheers and goodnight.