Movie Review: MIDNIGHTERS (2017)

We’re almost three months into 2018 already. How did that happen? Life is passing us by at seemingly ever-increasing speed. The festive season is long passed, but it feels like only yesterday that every man and his blog was debating whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie, or even more controversially, Lethal Weapon. I mean come on, Die Hard is definitely a Christmas movie! “Let it Snow” plays over the closing credits, for shit’s sake!

Lethal Weapon? Might be stretching it there, guys.

In contrast, there’s almost no debate around what makes a “New Year’s movie”; people just don’t care as much. New Year’s is Christmas’ rowdy cousin – it shows up a week late, destroys the year that came before it, leaves a huge mess and nothing is quite the same after it leaves. Who cares if something is a New Years movie? New Years certainly doesn’t care about us!

But, Julius Ramsay’s MIDNIGHTERS is definitely a New Years movie.

Opening as the clock hits twelve, MIDNIGHTERS introduces us to Lindsey and Jeff Pittman (Alex Essoe and Dylan McTee) – a couple whose relationship is being put to the test by financial hardship. But this year is going to be their year, or at least they’re convinced it will be until accidentally hitting a man with their car on the way home. Having had a few too many to pass a breathalyzer, they bring the man’s body back to their house and await soberness before driving him to a nearby hospital.

Even with their fresh New Year’s resolutions in mind, the characters make poor decisions immediately, escalating the situation into full-blown disaster. Despite this, Lindsey and Jeff remain calculatedly calm throughout their predicament, which is a little disconcerting. They come off as cold, and selfishly more bothered by how their lives will be disrupted than what they did to the man on the road. Lies and deceit come easy to them, almost like they’ve done something like this before despite the film not giving us any reason to believe that might be the case.

Then, the prerequisite sociopathic bad guy shows up looking to collect money that our road-wandering man was predictably carrying. He drops a whole load of philosophical, psychoanalytical rhetoric on the protagonists, and looks a lot like Eddie Redmayne even though there’s not a single fantastic beast in sight. It’s hard to find characters to sympathize with here. Everyone’s out for themselves and they’ll do anything to get it, but I’m not convinced we’re given good enough reasons for why these people are the way they are.

Director Julius Ramsay (who has roots in television horror with “The Walking Dead” and “Outcast”) has a decent eye and makes the best of MIDNIGHTERS visually, despite the low budget. Or at least he does when you can see what’s going on. Much of the film is in darkness, unfortunately obscuring much of the carnage.

Alex Essoe (memorable for her turn in Starry Eyes) is the highlight here, although this go around doesn’t have as much sting due to the material she’s been handed. I was ultimately reminded of Stuart Gordon’s superior film Stuck (2007), where a young girl hits a homeless man with her car and leaves him to die in her garage, trapped in the windscreen and bleeding out horribly. MIDNIGHTERS isn’t a bad film, it’s just hard to recommend as it never gives us a compelling reason to believe in its characters. In comparison, Stuck took a similar concept and injected it with a sinister sense of humor that MIDNIGHTERS could have benefited from.

Still, it’s nice to see another film fall into the “New Year’s film” category. Sure, it’s a holiday that doesn’t have presents, jolly fat men, eggnog, or mistletoe, but it deserves to be doused in cinematic blood all the same.

MIDNIGHTERS arrives in select theaters, VOD, and Digital HD March 2nd

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