THE MIDNIGHT MAN, the latest film from director Travis Zariwny (2016’s Cabin Fever), is a play off an urban legend where a creature known as The Midnight Man appears after a specific game has been played. The film stars Gabrielle Haugh (The Institute), Grayson Gabriel (Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency), along with horror legends Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street) and Lin Shaye (Insidious franchise).
The film centers around Alex Luster (Haugh) who has taken on the responsibility of caring for her ailing, secretive grandmother (Shaye). One evening, Alex’s friend Mile (Gabriel) comes over and they find a mysterious box in the attic of her grandmother’s sprawling mansion. Deciding to investigate further, they follow the instructions within the box which tells of The Midnight Game, an “ancient pagan ritual said to summon the player’s greatest fears” (Scream Factory Press Release). What begins is a playful game quickly turns dangerous when The Midnight Man appears and unleashes unimaginable horror to those Alex loves the most.
Prior to the movie, I had not realized that The Midnight Game was actually an urban legend. However, this past week, I was listening to the podcast Creepy, which had an episode based it. With that said, the actual story – whether you want to call it an urban legend or a creepypasta, is quite interesting. Having now seen that translated onto the big screen, I wish there had been more focus on the actual mythology surrounding The Midnight Man and his game.
In regards to the acting, we really need to talk about how incredible Lin Shaye is. Seeing a resurgence in her career these last few years, especially within the horror genre, has been pretty spectacular, and once again she shows she is a force to be reckoned with in THE MIDNIGHT MAN. Honestly, I wish we had more screen time with her because she definitely stole the show. The same can be said about legendary horror icon, Robert Englund, who plays Dr. Harding, as he only gets minimal screen time, which is incredibly unfortunate. It’s always a pleasure to see Englund outside of his most famous role as Freddy Krueger, that it’s a shame more films don’t utilize his talent more. As for Gabrielle Haugh and Grayson Gabriel, who play Alex and Miles, respectively, they were okay with what they were given. I was hoping that they would both be more engaging considering they were the main characters, but I felt like their performances fell flat.
As for the story itself, I think originally it had the right idea. I was definitely sold on the notion of playing a game that had supernatural consequences, as well as the presentation of The Midnight Man, but the writing that accompanied it was so cheesy and amateur that it threw me off from enjoying the film as a whole. One scene in particular shows The Midnight man threatening one of the characters and he literally does the “finger across the throat” which wouldn’t have been so bad had it not been executed so poorly. Moments like this make the film frustrating because there were a lot of great aspects to THE MIDNIGHT MAN. The makeup and practical effects are absolutely brilliant, the dream-like sequences are visually appealing, and the score is done really well, which is why I expected the writing to be just as impressive. It’s almost as if the creators threw all their money at big name supporting actors along and background frills while forgetting to actually focus on the overall story.
With all that said, I wouldn’t discourage you from seeing THE MIDNIGHT MAN, it was just a film that didn’t resonate with me and one I felt like could have been a lot more better than it was. I think had the story had more attention to it as opposed to all the bells and whistles, this could have been a truly fantastic urban legend come to life, instead it ends up being a forgettable horror flick. If you get the chance to see THE MIDNIGHT MAN, which is now available to own on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, let me know what you think. Until then, I won’t be conjuring up the Midnight Man anytime soon.