Midnight Mass

Director: Tony Mandile
Cast: Pamela Karp, Douglas Gibson, Marvin Schwartz
Artisan Entertainment
Released: 2003
MPAA Rating: R
Distributor: Lions Gate Entertainment
1.85.1 (Approx. Enhanced)



Evil bloodsuckers originating from Saudi Arabia have taken over the world!

No, we're not talking about the Saudi royal family here. Or any of the oil sheik buddies of George W. ("most of the terrorists - including bin Laden himself - responsible for the September 11 World Trade Center attacks were Saudi citizens, so let's invade Iraq then!") Bush.

We're talking actual vampires here, in a low, low budget movie titled Midnight Mass.

This is the type of movie that would result if you and your student buddies all got together and over a few beers decide to make a movie. I can imagine the film-makers arguing whose family members and friends would star and at whose house they'd film a particular scene.

No, seriously. You think I'm being nasty here, but Midnight Mass most resembles a high school play, one staged by the Goth kids and Marilyn Manson fans who usually get blamed for high school shootings and the like.

This suspicion is borne out by the very cheap making-of featurette included on the DVD: the director and most of his crew are the folks that would run your local comic book store or tattoo parlour. The ones you'd see in mosh pits on Friday nights, head banging away to Metallica.

Strangely enough the movie's attitude towards Goth kids and the like are quite negative. (Don't look at me: I used to hang out with them in my youth. These are my people, damn it!) In Midnight Mass, Goth kids are the villains, riding around in an old 1970?s car in day time, picking up victims for their vampire overlords.

The heroes include a priest who resembles Gary from thirtysomething (the long-haired dude who resembled Bjorn Borg, remember?) and his female sidekick, described in some of the publicity material as a ?militant atheist.?

You can be sure by the time the movie's over that she would have realised her mistake and have realised there is a god after all.

Who is really behind this movie? The Christian right, or what?

The hot-looking priest and his sidekick return to his old church. It has been taken over by a group of vampires who drink the blood of human victims in ritualistic fashion. Our heroes decide to reclaim the church and soon the scene is set for a climax straight out of Night of the Living Dead . . .

Now, don't get me wrong: I've never been one to disparage movies because of their low budgets. Heck, among my favourite movies are cheapo efforts such as Dark Star (a film student movie, fer cryin' out loud!), A Boy and his Dog and so forth.

But most movies made independently of the Hollywood system are made that way because they try something that safe Hollywood would never even touch.

Midnight Mass however has nothing new to say: it is The Omega Man, Night of the Living Dead with the cast of The Crow.

In the post-apocalypse people will still have time to keep water features running, hoisting flags, going to the beach and the like. Also, in a world overrun by deadly vampires people would still go around cycling alone at night!

In fact the movie is way too ambitious for its own good. The actors can't carry the overly dramatic scenes and end up being unintentionally camp. "Fu&*ing drama queen,"? a character snarls towards the end of Midnight Mass. I couldn't have said it better myself . . .

Midnight Mass just screams for a real budget, real actors and a real screenplay. Maybe then it wouldn't have been so patently amateurish and ridiculous (it is REALLY like a high school play!). Or if it had displayed the same sense of humour that helped the Evil Dead movies to transcend their cheapie horror roots.

There are no Sam Ramie's, Bruce Campbell's or John Carpenter's here: I'd recommend everyone involved with this movie to stick to their day jobs.

Oh yeah, except for whosever naked boobs we got to see during the movie (hence the one star rating instead of a zero). They were quite nice . . .

THE DISC: Image is okay for such a cheap movie, except for the dark scenes in which some visible compression artefacting can be seen. The sound is muffled or tinny at times. The ?making-of? featurette was probably made on someone's handheld video cam: the picture is grainy and there are some vertical stripes typical of video tapes. There is also a production commentary ? at least there are some extras I suppose. The outtakes and bloopers are also moderately funny.

WORTH IT? No amount of boobies, no matter how nice they are, can make up for the time you'd lose on this movie.

RECOMMENDATION: Buy a copy of Big ?n? Bouncy instead . . .



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