Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

The Midnight Matinee

Grade : A Year : 2017 Director : Justin Doescher Running Time : 46min Genre : , ,
Movie review score

I cannot really contain my excitement over Justin Doescher’s “The Midnight Matinee.” It’s his second feature, after his found-footage thriller “The Break-In” (which is one of the best films of that subgenre), and once again, he is tackling a subgenre that is extremely hit-and-miss. Doescher’s structure this time around is the anthology format, and while it’d be easy to consider “Creepshow” while watching the 42-minute film, a “Twilight Zone” episode is probably the better comparison. Doescher’s film is worthy of comparison to both.

As its framing device, “Midnight Matinee” takes the structure of a collection of short films from the silent era, including the curtains opening at the start and title cards introducing each film. There are five short films, in all, and having this at 42 minutes is spot-on for each one to start and end without lingering longer than necessary. Doescher has a talent for economic storytelling that lands its punches and doesn’t overstay its welcome. That’s especially important for something like this, where you don’t want any story feeling out of place or weaker than any of the others. The best thing to do from here would be to discuss each one individually.

Film #1- “Open Sea.” A couple are off on a weekend fishing trip. The man, Brian (Doescher himself), is looking to film the entire weekend, partially for posterity, but also because he intends to propose to the woman, Lauren (Maggie Tehan), that night. They have also brought their dog with them. This is a found footage film, and I love the different ways Doescher employs it, with phone cameras and handheld cameras and Go Pros on selfie sticks to show us every minute. It’s well-executed, and I’m not gonna lie, it’s got a disturbing ending to it.

Film #2- “Let Go.” A man, Max (Shaun Woodland), has just broken up with his girlfriend. One day, he gets a random email inviting him to join a dating site called Let Go, which promises to help put that former relationship in the rear view mirror for good. He joins, but when he starts to get notifications of negative feedback to his profile, you start to wonder what kind of site this is. This is a short and sweet horror tale that borders on dark comedy more than anything, and I’ll just say- I don’t care how bad of an experience you’ve had with online dating. Max’s is worse.

Film #3- “Premonition.” Maggie (Becky Edwards) is going through her mother’s affects after she has passed away. She finds a videotape labeled, “Jennifer’s appointment with Dr. Livingston,” with a post-it saying, “Must watch.” She is on the phone with her aunt, who explains it as the videotaped session Maggie’s sister, who died before Maggie was born, had with a doctor after she had a dream that allowed her to save her classmates from a fire. Maggie watches it, and we get some troubling glimpses in Jennifer’s mind, and how certain things she says came true. This is a creepy premise executed well by Doescher and his actors. This is probably the one where his editing talents come through the most.

Film #4- “Frances.” We shift gears into crime thriller here as Nikolai (Ian Flanders) is spending his afternoon snorting coke before his boss calls him that a woman, Frances (Melissa Merry), is about to stop by and inspect some merchandise he has gotten for a transaction. Nikolai should really have his head straight for this, because Frances is not playing games. It’s a clever hook for a scene and ends in a way you may see coming, but it certainly takes Nikolai for surprise. Things will not be going well for him.

Film #5- “Night Night.” Santiago (Santiago Veizaga) is having trouble sleeping, and his father (Juan-Pablo Veizaga) is trying to get some sleep before he has to go to work in three hours. This is not a good night for Santiago to have visions of a disturbing clown figure. Not the strongest film of the bunch, but definitely an entertaining piece of “jump out at night” scare filmmaking.

All of these films were written, directed, edited and produced by Doescher (the last three were done before this anthology), and he has a good idea of how to do a wide variety of horror subgenres and tropes, based on what we see here. I love the framing device of the short film collection. I love the music he uses in each short. I love the stories and how they are made. And I love how Doescher has presented his variety of talents with not just each individual film, but the collection, in general. This is easily one of my favorite horror discoveries in recent years, and shows Doescher as a voice to be reckoned with in the genre.

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