Censorship sometimes feels nonexistent now when it comes to filmmaking. With streaming services practically taking over cinema and television, artistic freedom is prevalent due to success not relying on opening box office. Instead, exclusivity and subscribers help determine that success, most notably the relationship between director Mike Flanagan and Netflix. Due to both fan and critical response, Flanagan continues to get his projects financed and distributed via the streaming service, often resulting in the not-so-common dramas that happen to have horror elements in the mix. Network television has been pushing the limits, throwing in graphic violence and just how explicit sex can be simulated on channel 7.
In the 80s, censorship was way more of a controversial topic, especially as horror films experimented with practical gore effects. This coincided with the rise of the home video market. Watching a movie was no longer a special night out, but rather you could trade video cassettes and watch as you please at home. In the UK, if a film was declared a Video Nasty, then anyone caught with their hands on one could be prosecuted. Obviously, the label itself made a movie that much more interesting and caught fans’ curiosity. Actress Me Me Lai is well known for her work in Italian cannibal films became a cop after her time in the genre. Life came in full circle when she partook in a raid of Video Nasty films and found herself on the cover of those copies.
Thanks to companies like Severin Films, some of the lesser-known properties now have a longer shelf life with high-definition releases.
MIDNIGHT was released in 1982, originally seized and confiscated due to being declared a Video Nasty. It was later released under the title THE BACKWOODS MASSACRE. Filmed in Pennsylvania for $200,000, MIDNIGHT follows a teenaged girl who runs away from home to escape being raped by her stepfather. She ends up hitchhiking and getting picked up by two young men while on her way to San Francisco. Their road trip evolves to meeting a Black preacher and his daughter, as well as racists and Satan worshippers who just found their latest sacrifices.
After watching MIDNIGHT, it’s funny to believe that this caused controversy back in the day. While the subject matter was probably what drew the most attention, the actual content didn’t display any graphic material. There are a couple of notable facts about MIDNIGHT that this new Blu-ray helps delve into.
It was written and directed by John Russo, who also co-wrote Night of the Living Dead with George Romero. He gives an interview here on the disc, discussing his career and what led to MIDNIGHT. Special effects legend Tom Savini also worked on the film. In his interview here, he gives funny antidotes about how he didn’t even know what the movie was about due to it coming in the middle of the busiest times of his career. The isolated score and interview with composer Mike Mazzei are included along with an interview with producer Samuel M. Sherman.
Declared a Video Nasty, there’s nothing nasty about Severin’s new video presentation of MIDNIGHT. Scanned in 4K from the negative of the uncut version, the film looks super clean for a low-budget indie. Most films of this era tend to have scratches and grain, but somehow MIDNIGHT has one the smoothest looking presentations I’ve seen of this kind.
While MIDNIGHT made not have made a splash during its time, Severin has treated their Blu-ray as a top-notch release. You can order your copy here!