Monday, 26 March 2012
DVD: JOHN RUSSO'S MIDNIGHT (1980) -7 DAYS OF HORROR, DAY 2
This DVD is released by Arrow Video which specialises in reissuing classic or cult horror movies in as complete a version as possible, remastered, and with lots of extras. All have double covers like the one above. More on this later.
John Russo's place in horror movie history is secured by his co-writing the script for Night Of The Living Dead with George Romero, but that isn't all he's done. Apart from several novels or novelisations, he wrote the original script for Return Of The Living Dead which was then re-written as a comedy by other hands, and more.
As for the film itself, I can't honestly say that it's very good but it isn't very bad either and has several things going for it. Made at the time (and long before today's cheap technology) for the then small sum, by movie standards, of $71,000 it wears its cheapness on its sleeve by not very good acting, barely adequate editing, and poor gore effects by another horror legend Tom Savini.
It opens with a family comprising mother and children who come across a teenage girl whose leg is caught in a trap. The mother then exhorts the eldest barely teenage boy to kill her which he does by beating her to death with a stick. Cut to a 17 year old girl being molested by her drunken cop stepfather who runs away and hitches a lift with two older boys, one black and one white. They never get out of the state. Stopping off at a small racist town for beer they get harrassed by the locals and a local cop. Shortly after that they get caught by a strange family and to say more would be to spoil it for you.
There are several good things about this film which work. There is some reasonable characterisation for a start, though this would have worked better with more capable actors, not that they are all poor by any means. One of them is the Hollywood veteran Laurence Tierney. The violence and gore effects,though not quite tame by today's standards, aren't all that convincing. The sheer brutality and the delight in terrorising and murdering by the villains most certainly is and is quite grueling at times. There are also a few unexpected twists. All this make it a DVD worth hanging on to and watching again.
As for the DVD itself, it automatically plays, against a loud intrumental guitar-led rock track, a series of incredibly gory snippets from the various movies Arrow Video have released. This is quite intense, especially if you aren't prepared for it. I can say that as someone who's watched Lucio Fulci's Zombi 2 without wincing (well, not much anyway). There's a booklet of all their films, a poster of the cover of Midnight with thumbnail images of their movies on the reverse. Plus a short illustrated booklet written by the excellent Stephen Thrower about the movie.On the disc itself is a good selection of trailers, but more importantly there are long and candid interviews with John Amplas (star of Romero's cult vampire movie Martin) and with John Russo himself which are well worth watching.
Three stars for the movie, four for the package.