IFC continues to fund second-tier horror movies (like that one SFR recently reviewed called Devil's Gate), but may have finally stumbled upon something not entirely terrible with The Midnight Man. Like an amalgam of nouveau horror tropes pulled from films like The Ring, A Nightmare on Elm Street and the original Jumanji (y'heard us), The Midnight Man becomes part teenaged slasher flick, part supernatural thriller and part mystery, and it's actually a fairly fun little romp.
When young Alex (horror mainstay Gabrielle Haugh) must stay with her grandmother Anna (played by Lin Shaye, who most will probably remember as the gross landlady Woody Harrelson must bed in the 1996 comedy Kingpin) for … some reason … and stumbles upon a seemingly homemade game with her platonic bud Miles (Grayson Gabriel), the pair decides it might be cool to play. Turns out, though, that it's the workings of some ancient pagan demon who can fully make you live your worst fears before he straight-up punches your face clean off. Ruh-roh. Meanwhile, a spooky doctor who probably knows more than he's letting on (Robert Englund, aka Freddie Krueger) and Alex's grandma just keep making things worse while the Midnight Man himself pops in, manifesting horrible visions of brutal death.
OK, so it's a little goofy, and we'd point out that a great rule of horror is to never show the monster unless it's completely horrifying (2013's Mama being a pretty apt example of when it's a good plan to reveal)—advice this movie sidesteps almost immediately—but The Midnight Man winds up being not so bad. There are a few twists you didn't see coming, some pretty cool CGI that really sells the atmosphere and the cinematography is surprisingly excellent. Not too shabby for a relative newcomer director like Travis Zariwny, who previously was a camera department guy for movies like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
See this thing at night and take your friends, because it's just jump-scary enough to be fun and just silly enough to be enjoyed. By no means should anyone expect a new era in horror, but we can all but guarantee you'll have a good time.
+Slightly better than you'd expect
-A little too familiar for horror buffs
The Midnight Man
Directed by Zariwny
With Haugh, Gabriel, Shay and Krueger—I mean, Englund
Jean Cocteau Cinema, NR, 95 min.