The Midnight Game DVD Review
Directed by A.D. Calvo
Written by Rick Dahl and A.D.Calvo
2013, Region 1, 74 minutes, Rated R
DVD released on August 12th, 2014
Renee Olstead as Kaitlan
Shelby Young as Rose
Guy Wilson as Shane
Valentina de Angelis as Jenna
Spencer Daniels as Jeff
Robert Romanus as Derrick
Deborah Twiss as Noreen
Kaitlan has the house to herself this weekend and she hosts a sleepover for her friends Jenna and Rose, despite promising her mother, “No parties. No boys.” Their pizza party grows into something more when Shane and Jeff arrive with beer and hopes of some good times. Fifth wheel Kaitlan agrees to party with the others and soon the kids are looking for a fun way to pass the time. Shane suggests they play something called the Midnight Game, a thing he recently found on the internet. Everyone is down for this and so begins the long list of rules of the game that are presented in clunky exposition. Luckily, things promise to get pretty scary, as the central conceit is that if these rules are not followed precisely, The Midnight Man will come and present your worst fears through a series of intense hallucinations for the next several hours.
The Midnight Game is an ancient Pagan ritual designed to teach people the importance of following rules and of course our players do not take the idea seriously, so things start to get a little spooky around the old dark house. (Candles play a big part in the game, so one of the rules is that you cannot turn on the lights.) The game ends at 3:33 AM and everyone is thrilled but exhausted, so off to sleep they go. The next day however, things are not quite right as personalities are changing, shadows are creeping and an ominous vibe hangs over the whole place. The kids decide they are still suffering the effects of the previous night's unfinished activities and decide to play the game a second time for closure. The Midnight Man returns and this time things take a much more sinister turn that will leave our heroes fighting to survive the night.
Speaking in broad generalities, I would like to make two statements: first, the internet is filled with bullshit and, second, kids are stupid. That being said, The Midnight Game insists this is a real thing to be found on the internet and indeed, a quick Google search yields several results that list the rules for playing, but I have never heard of this game and don't know if someone connected to the film created these sites. For the sake of argument let's pretend the Midnight Game is real and just as likely to summon supernatural forces as calling out to Bloody Mary, or even the Candyman for that matter. The movie version (“inspired by true events”) sets up a lot of promising scenarios, but fumbles most of them, and we are left to watch our leads bickering and searching the grounds for scares, though much of the latter occurs in broad daylight despite the name of the game.
Director A.D. Calvo (The Melancholy Fantastic) delivers an interesting picture that works in a made-for-television way, certain to scare younger viewers despite not being specifically geared towards that demographic. Working from a story by Calvo and Rick Dahl (Red Rock West), a lot of emphasis is placed on following the rules, but the central warning of blindly accepting whatever the internet offers as truth is a bit lost in translation. Cinematographer Eun-ah Lee (The Skinny) brings the majority of the scares with his atmospheric lighting that helps sell the menace, while the score by Joe Carrano (Party Monster) starts off a bit dodgy but finds its groove by the critical third act.
The cast does a fine job for the most part and are fairly believable as friends, although the personality shifts are a bit rough on some performances. There really isn't a standout in the crowd (either good or bad) and in a way this works too, as nobody is obviously “acting.” There is, however, a quick scene at the end featuring Robert Romanus (Fast Times at Ridgemont High) as a potential homeowner that is mildly distracting if you recognize him and are left wondering why Damone is house hunting. Don't be misled by the torturous poster art as it has nothing to do with this picture (though I would like to see whatever film it represents), but there are some elements newbie horror fans will enjoy, including a quick flash of nudity, and a few glimpses of violence. The heavy-handed climax will frustrate viewers that the concept wasn't further explored, but at a brisk 75 minutes it is hard to complain too much here.
Video and Audio:
The Midnight Game is presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and features a respectable transfer. Flesh tones are consistent and black levels are solid if not a bit too deep at times. The picture is crisp with decent color saturation, but it is easy at times to get lost in the shadows.
A decent 5.1 surround mix is not necessarily the most robust audio you are likely to find, but there are some nice directional sound effects that creep through the rear channels.