That simple plot boils down to Lamberto Bava's "Demons," with moviegoers trapped in a theater late one night, chased by killer demons. Now substitute "killer demons" with "a raging lunatic," and voila! Said nutcase is Radford (Arthur Roberts), a one-time B-movie director who's in an insane asylum after becoming unhealthily obsessed with his 1970s horror cheapie — so obsessed that it pushes him to a literal bloodbath, slaughtering the staff and making his escape, never to be seen again ...
... until a few years later, when a single-screen theater is showing his film that very night, to an audience of less than a dozen. They're into the badness of it all, and then they become part of it. One by one, they're killed by the film's masked madman, and their deaths are projected seamlessly as if part of that original black-and-white movie; their friends sure are slow to realize what's going on — amused where we would be apoplectic.
A movie-within-in-a concept is always welcome, but a picture must have something more than just that, or it risks gimmickry. Because all but a slim fraction of Messitt's cast are woefully amateurish, "Midnight Movie" embraces that risk. Besides, can't gimmicks be a blast?
Absolutely, and Messitt gets a charge from viewers who remember the joys of old-school theaters, where one or two titles played, tops, making the experience more communal. Ironically, while widening your viewing options, multiplexes have sapped the fun out of going to the movies. It's not what it used to be. "Midnight Movie" also celebrates the conventions of the B-picture, becoming every bit as predictable as its cat-and-mouse chase in an enclosed setting, but with the added, contemporary bonus of bright 'n' colorful bloodletting.
After a while, its repetitive nature may wear on you, but at least this slasher dares to do something different from the get-go. That it can't entirely pull that off is more to blame on its minuscule budget than anything else.
A bit you may not realize upon a first viewing, but the opening credits cite Mr. Radford as being responsible for editing this new cut. That's your first clue not to take this flick too seriously. And if you don't, you'll be pleased by the disc's many "Killer" bonuses. —Rod Lott