Midnight Matinee (1989)

OCTOBER 29, 2012


And lo, my search for the great movie-theater based slasher movie continues. Midnight Matinee (originally simply Matinee, likely changed to avoid confusion with Joe Dante's underrated film) is a pretty dull affair, spending more time on its routine cop/thriller scenes than the slashing. Hell, I'd even be more excited if they just focused on the day to day operation of an independent movie theater, but even that stuff is kept to a minimum.

According to the IMDb (must be true!), the film was actually a made for TV production, but the occasional graphic violence and even an F bomb or two makes me wonder how that can be true. I guess it's possible that it was made for TV here but with theatrical release in mind for other territories, hence the occasional R rated bits, but if that's the case then those poor bastards seeing this thing in theaters (instead of for free on TV) got even more ripped off. Its at least serviceable as a late 80s TV movie; as a theatrical release it would need, oh, 50 or so minutes replaced with something that might be considered "exciting" or "interesting".

I'll give it this much - it certainly doesn't starve for red herrings. The movie takes place over what seems like a week, so they can easily get around the usual slasher whodunit issue of certain people being accounted for during a murder scene - someone will be alone and then killed, and then it will cut to the next morning or so. So there's a shady reporter, the assorted staff members of the theater, the guy behind the movie they're about to premiere, etc, etc. I wouldn't say the reveal was mindblowing, but it certainly wasn't immediately obvious who was behind these very infrequent murders, either.

But then again, that actually adds to the movie's problem - introducing so many people and fleshing them out to be believable suspects takes time away from the killer doing his or her thing. Plus, many of them are still alive by the end, so if one were to plot out a red herring to victim ratio, it would skew heavily towards the former. There's a sweet spot between killing off everyone too soon leaving minimal suspect possibilities and leaving too many alive so that there's an abundance of suspects (My Bloody Valentine and the first Scream are fine examples), but this movie never finds it.

In lieu of action, it does offer a pre-X-Files William B. Davis, as the director of the film "Bad Blood II" (the festival's centerpiece, I guess). He doesn't do much, but it's fun seeing him with darker hair and playing yet another cryptic character. Also, unlike "CGB Spender", he only dies once, rather than dragging on his increasingly pointless storyline until the bitter end. Don S. Davis also pops up as the manager of the theater, doubling the "people who I recognize from other movies/shows" count of this thing.

Other than their brief turns in front of the camera, the only thing that amused me about the movie was all the little nods to other, better horror movies. The opening scene of the movie is a fake clip from the movie they're watching, featuring an homage to Kevin Bacon's murder from Friday the 13th, and another movie later references Nightmare On Elm Street. Then there are some real posters mixed in with the fake ones created for the movies in the movie - I was delighted to see Pin every time Davis is shown at his desk. There's also one that I THOUGHT was fake for a movie called Frankenstein General Hospital, but I found out it exists for real. However, my good friend Phil Blankenship informed me that it's so bad he actually got rid of his copy, and if you know Phil, you'd know that he isn't the type to make a habit out of narrowing down his movie collection. But was it worse than this? Will I ever know???

To the best of my knowledge, the film was never released on DVD in the US. A couple of PAL copies are on Amazon, but even those seem out of print. I'm all for film preservation, so I hope there will always be one copy of the original negative being kept somewhere. Otherwise, there's no need to seek this out - it's slow, it lacks any personality, and it's just another example of how NOT to make a horror movie set around horror movies. We need more to get it right before we bother seeing another one that gets it wrong.

What say you?

1 comment:

  1. I watched this right after it popped up on Netflix; I was curious if you would check it out. From what I understand this was originally shown on a Canadian cable channel so I guess that explains the nudity and gore. Anyways, agree with you 100%; might have even liked it less.

    I found it extremely funny that it was such a big deal to put this horror film festival back on a few years after the murders. It appears that there are only about twenty people living in the town so not so sure as to why this was such a big deal. I also love how they make it out that Davis's film is a big premiere and if it is then why would it premiere here? I don't see one of the "Saw" sequels getting their world premiere screening in Butte, Montana. I have nothing personally against Butte; just the random city that popped in my head.

    Also, barely anyone in this film seems to care either way about what is going on. Even most of the victims act very nonchalant when they are being killed. The one crazy dude who showed any kind of personality (which does not equal good acting skills, mind you) ends up being the first one killed off.

    I've probably given this film more dissecting than it deserves, but it's just such a bizzare exercise. It's like someone asked a group of people "Hey, you want to make a movie this weekend," and everyone shrugged their shoulders and said "Sure, why not?" Strange movie indeed.


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