Oct 11, 2014

11 of 31: Midnight Mass (2002)

A vain attempt by a formerly prolific blogger to review 31 new (to me) horror films in the 31 days of October. We did it last year and it was a gas. Can we do it once more? Let's find out.

Platform: Amazon Prime on Roku
Starring:  A whole bunch of really terrible actors.

A little backstory first. About 8 years ago, I found a little horror novel by F. Paul Wilson named Midnight Mass.  I was a moderate fan of Wilson's work, having really enjoyed The Tomb and The Keep. Two genre-rich offerings of brain candy. Wilson, in the forward to his novel, bemoaned the fancy dressing up of vampires that had taken over the genre with Anne Rice and her cohorts. Vampires were meant to be evil and bloody and violent and really fucking evil. Not starstruck puppy dog losers in love. Wanting to get back to a more basic, evil vampire tale, he penned Midnight Mass. A quick, violent little enjoyable read. Bottom line: Midnight Mass the novel was a good read.

I'm going to bury the lede here. Midnight Mass the film is fucking awful!

That's the simple way to look at it, of course. A more complex review would be that it's so bad that it almost came around full circle and was awesome! Almost. This is a cosmically awful film. The story, which was way more than decent in the book, was pared down to basically one singular event. And it took about an hour and a half to give us this event. Mostly surrounded by ridiculous dialogue and needless exposition. The acting was epically awful. I've never seen any of the actors in this mess before or after. Many of them, including the lead actress, only have this film as a credit on IMDB. Although she does have her own website, which claims that she has received praise. Good for her.

The production value on the film is shockingly awful. Film quality, locations, audio, special effects. Some of the vampires look like they are wearing dime store Halloween masks. Back when, um, dime stores existed. Nice outdated reference, dick! And one of the most amazing things about this horrifically awful film is that is was kind of championed by the author of the book himself. Wilson co-wrote the screenplay and he actually appeared in the film in a cameo. I've read that he still hopes that a full feature can be made from the novel with a much higher budget, but he is at least partly to blame for this craptastically awful film.

In case you are keeping score, so far I've called the film "fucking awful", "cosmically awful", "epically awful", "shockingly awful", "horrifically awful" and "craptastically awful". That's a whole lot of awful right there. And yet I watched the entire thing. I actually started watching it on EpixHD, but the streaming feed kept stopping. A glitch with interface or something. I was a half-hour in and prepared to bail when I found it on Amazon Prime. I really wish I hadn't.

It really showed promise in the prologue. Through news clips we find that a nasty plague or virus has been spiraling out of control in certain parts of the world. Sound topical? America was the last place on the planet that was free of the plague, but it soon reaches our shores on both coasts. Then reports of bodies burning and exploding when hit by direct sunlight, the dead crawling out of mass graves in Eastern Europe, and plague victims feeding on the blood of the living. It's no plague, it's the Vampire Apocalypse.

Then it all goes to shit. And we are five minutes in. Vampires have taken control of the New Jersey shore. You know...getting wasted, scoring chicks, fist-pumping on the dance floor. How they do. A group of human goth fang-bangers (to borrow a term from True Blood) are out hunting for fresh victims for their undead masters. They drive an awesome fake convertable Caddy with a leopard-skin top. I want that car. These collaborators are called Vichys by the human freedom fighters. One of the many vampire to Nazi comparisons that we are beat over the head with in this film.

The vampires and their Vichy humans have taken over a local Catholic Church, where they have been performing nightly human sacrifices and having bad S&M sex. The freedom fighters want to take back this small piece of their world from these evil sons of bitches. They enlist the aid of an alcoholic disgraced priest who had been falsely accused of pedophilia. Does he have the faith left in him to get the job done? That's what the film is all about.

You see...there are elements of a good movie in there somewhere. Vampires as a Nazi allegory. The whole idea of Catholicism as a force of good against evil using transubstantiation and faith. The backstory of the Church's awful history of pedophilia. Even some discussion regarding Creationism vs. Evolution. In the hands of a talented screenwriter and director, this could have been a decent film. Maybe even a really good film.

As it is? Crap. Too much talky talky, not enough stabby stabby. But we do have one scene where the vampires hoist our slightly chubby female lead up high in the church like a flesh pinata. Easily my favorite scene in the film. But even that let me down. Not one of the vamps took a swing at her with a stick. I hate humorless vampires.

Verdant Dude Rating: 1 out of 5 pumpkin ales

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