Creepy clowns and horror scares – that is what writer, producer, director and Amazon’s Filmmaker of the Year 2017 Justin Doescher proposes with The Midnight Matinee.
There’s certainly aspects of this film that everyone can admire. It taps into an old school love of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Tales From the Crypt or Goosebumps – five short, anthology stories designed to quickly engross you whilst delivering a significant and relevant twist.
Entering The Midnight Matinee is like venturing out to a carnival. For every fun fair ride, there’s always that creepy yet inviting stall offering something strange and off-kilter. That atmosphere is felt from the very beginning. The curtains draw open and like a tribute to silent film, it patiently sets the scene before the audience embarks on the journey.
The best stories from the anthology are Open Sea, Let Go and Night Night. Open Sea is a simple, classic tale of love with a tragic ending. Let Go examines the world of online dating and the moral and ethical implications of how far someone would go to forget their past relationships. Finally Night Night is your typical scary clown story with a young boy unable to sleep as a clown stalks his way into the child’s life.
Because of the very short run time between stories, sadly there’s not much time for character depth, therefore unfortunately you have to take as is. Whilst the twists in the stories are somewhat predictable, The Midnight Matinee is more concerned in showcasing that short-form horror stories are possible, perfect for the fast paced and social media environment we currently live in. It’s more concerned with being in the moment like a snapshot of someone’s life. With each story you have to infer their thoughts or motivations. For example, in Night Night, the young boy suffers a self battle between his rational self and the overwhelming nature of his fear and imagination. The blurring line question that is asked is whether his fear won or whether it was all real.
If there’s a criticism where The Midnight Matinee falters is in its production values. Looking more like an experimental home video, each story carries the same, generic film grain look. Whether that’s intentional or not is another debate but each story lacks a distinctive and unique vibe. In other words because they visually look the same you can’t separate them out. Every scene is de-saturated of colour to obviously create a heightened mood of mystery but lacks a visual vibrancy which can be off-putting.
Furthermore, The Midnight Matinee would have benefited from an extended running time. The story ideas are generally favourable and worth telling but in Premonition and Frances for example, the premise could have been fleshed out. Both films tap into a mood but to understand the reasoning can be ambiguously rushed and lacking an impact as it reaches towards its goal.
But overall, The Midnight Matinee is experimental in its approach within its snappy 42 minute runtime. If you’re looking for something a little unconventional and different, The Midnight Matinee could be an interesting film that fills that void.
The Midnight Matinee is available now on Amazon Prime.