A delirious and decidedly demented detour into depravity, Red Midnight is a thoughtful, undeniably enthusiastic examination of the internal fears that drive us, and the external manifestations of these terrors. It's also a righteous ride on the cinematic ghost-train, veering into our subconscious while its blood-chilling surface imagery titillates. Fun and serious, sly and subversive, this film manages to be scary in an unapologetic 'side-show' manner while poking good-humored fun at itself. While there is a fair amount of playfully dark humor amidst the knee-jerking explosions of atmospheric horror and suspense, it is of a kind that further propels the story. This itself makes it a refreshing change from the lacklustre, brainless and ball-less self-referential post-Scream 'horror comedies' that have been churned out by Hollywood executives who know little about horror as an emotion and less about integrity as they churn out one dog turd after another for the approval of bored housewives and teeny-bops who care more for the breast they're grabbing than the story unfolding on the screen.

And this is precisely where Red Midnight succeeds; telling real stories about real people who we, the audience, feel we know and can empathize with despite limitations of budget, effects, or technical polish. "If the story is good, they will come. . ." It is, and I hope people do. For although the tales themselves don't break new ground in terms of plot or theme, they are more ambitious than the genre usually allows, with a beginning, middle, and an end that has been lost somewhat in the slip-shod sensationalism of our post-modern culture. A rabid return to the creepy nuance and lunatic humor of EC comics and the several anthology wrap-around films that they inspired, Red Midnight is both a homage to an enjoyable genre tradition as well as a continuation. Working in a manner similar to the scares and dares of the Amicus films of the 1970's, themselves somewhat re-visited by George Romero's wonderfully nostalgic Creepshow, this fear-fest manages to evoke delicious shudders of tension and a wistful remembrance of horrors past. Fear not, though, boils and ghouls (sorry, couldn't help myself!), there is more of the charnel house than memory-lane in this trio of effective thrillers, and the focus is on contemporary horror, not remembrance.

A ticket to the freak-show, this anthology features three stories of dread whose surface events admirably convey something of substance about the main characters experiencing each terror. Finely written, the sense of terror evoked by a careful combination narrative, atmosphere, and filming technique is somehow as creepy as it is thoughtful. Supernatural horror and psychological deviations rarely feel tacked on for pure emotional effect but, rather, logical extensions of their particular situations.

Operating from the same narrative POV as such macabre masterpieces as The House That Bled To Death and Asylum, a 'frame' convention ties together similarly themed if distinctly plotted tales as reporter Karen Marks (Christine Bonfanti) drags her friend to a strange psychic willing to give examples of his outré abilities at a decrepit old theatre called the "Red Midnight." Hoping to get a story out of it, Karen soon learns (again, in loving EC fashion) more about the theater and herself than she ever wanted. The first story, "Anathema," directed by Ray Schwetz, features John Kitano (Roger Wu), as a widower who, having lost his wife, takes advantage of an internet dating service to land a woman. Now if only the dead would let him . . . The second entry in this mad melody is "The Creation of Dr. Grecoz," directed by Brian Michael Finn. Dr. William Grecoz (Hugh Daly) discovers that he has somewhat emotionally neglected his son, Billy. His surprising plan to ease the distance between them results in a nerve-shattering ode to obsession. Pilgrimage, the third piece of this putrid puzzle, is a story of satanic sensationalism, directed by Giovanni Pianigiani. Actually filmed on location, the director captures the decadent beauty and decay of Rome as a secret sect of Satanists (say that fast seven times!) plot deep beneath the city sewers to unleash the denizens of Hades on unsuspecting humanity. More supernaturally rooted in traditional Gothic tropes than the other tales, this leans more towards the dark fantastic than the psychological. It is, in fact, a modern fairy tale for adults.

Presented professionally, the movie weighs in at a widescreen of 1:66.1, which captures the images clearly and with little blemish. Color reproduction is strong with some slight bleeding. While some softening of image somewhat distorts picture, for the most part the movie is clean, the colors sharp, and the effect pleasing. Sound is very good, with a wonderfully evocative score that compliments the live action. Extras are where this package shines, including an in-depth commentary with Ray Schwetz, Joseph Zaso, Brian Michael Finn, and Giovanni Pianigiani! Despite the amount of people, the stories come fast, the discussions are lively while staying (for the most part!) on focus, and you can't walk away without knowing something further about the nature of low budget film production. Behind the scenes footage is enjoyable if not as insightful, followed by a photo gallery and the obligatory trailers.

Professionally paced for a low budget production, this is another example of underground filmmaking making more with little than big budget companies accomplish with an excess of resources. Visually impressive, the work of various directors is distinct enough to provoke interest while the themes of separate tales are similar enough in scope to provide balance. While performances are occasionally lacking, and effects often betray their bargain basement veneer, these are small complaints and do little to dispel the effects of amused menace that the film aims for. A dark detour into deviltry, depravity, and destiny, Red Midnight delivers lasting emotional tension that stays with you when more apparent shocks have lost their ability to scare.

Review by William P Simmons

Released by Joseph Zaso
Region All - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review