The Midnight Hour
|The Midnight Hour|
|Written by||Bill Bleich|
|Directed by||Jack Bender|
|Theme music composer||Brad Fiedel|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Executive producer(s)||Sharon L. Sawyer|
|Production location(s)||Universal Studios - 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California|
|Cinematography||Rexford L. Metz|
|Editor(s)||David A. Simmons|
|Running time||94 minutes|
Disney-ABC Domestic Television
The Midnight Hour is a 1985 American made-for-television comedy horror film directed by Jack Bender and starring Shari Belafonte-Harper, LeVar Burton, Peter DeLuise, and Dedee Pfeiffer. Its plot focuses on a small New England town that becomes overrun with zombies, witches, vampires, and all the other demons of hell after a group of teenagers unlocks a centuries-old curse on Halloween.
The film aired on ABC on Friday, November 1, 1985, at 9:00-11:00 pm EST. In addition to an original musical number, "Get Dead", the film's soundtrack features songs by Wilson Pickett, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, Three Dog Night, and The Smiths. The film marks Macaulay Culkin's first screen role as an uncredited trick-or-treater.
It is Halloween in the small town of Pitchford Cove located somewhere in New England, and five high school friends, Phil (Lee Montgomery), Mary (Pfeiffer), Mitch (DeLuise), Vinnie (Burton), and Melissa (Belafonte-Harper), plan on making it a night they will never forget. They steal outfits from the town's historic museum and come upon other old artifacts, including an old trunk encasing a paper scroll which contains an ancient curse. When Melissa, latent sorceress, recites the curse at the local cemetery, things take a turn for the worse.
The town's dead, led by Melissa's great-great-great-great-grandmother Lucinda Cavender (Jonelle Allen), a witch who was put to death 300 years earlier, rise up from their graves and roam the town. As Melissa, Vinnie, Mitch, and Mary enjoy themselves at their annual Halloween costume party, Phil encounters a mysterious girl, named Sandra "Sandy" Matthews (Jonna Lee), dressed in a vintage 1950's cheerleader outfit, who warns him that the whole town is in danger.
Meanwhile, Lucinda and the various undead crash the costume party. At first, nobody pays much attention to them since everyone is in costume. However, Lucinda begins turning the party guests into vampires, starting with her great-great-great-great-granddaughter Melissa.
When Sandy discovers that Phil and his friends recited the ancient spell in the cemetery, they realize that the whole town is being overrun by the living dead and decide to team up to break the curse. The only way to do so is to find the Grenville Spirit Ring inside the grave of a witch-hunter Nathaniel Grenville - who, coincidentally, was Phil's great-great-great-great-grandfather and slave owner of Lucinda Cavender, her arch-nemesis - and use it to undo the curse. Phil and "good ghost" Sandy must restore the town to normal by midnight before it is too late and the curse becomes permanent.
When the local police do not take Phil and Sandy's warning seriously, Phil manages to get his father's hunting rifle to make silver bullets from his father's silver coin collection so they can use the silver bullets which appears to have the only affect against the undead. When the couple ventures to the Halloween party, they discover everyone turned into undead zombies, vampires, witches or other evil beings. Phil manages to get the Grenville Spirit Ring from the zombie Vinnie in which Phil and Sandy drive back to the town's cemetery to break into Grenville's crypt to take his bone and dust remains to use to seal the scroll just as Lucinda and a horde of undead arrive and attack. Cornered in Phil's car, he and Sandy manage to use candle wax to seal the parchment scroll and in a flash, Sandy and all of the undead vanish, plus the wounds that Phil sustains during this event disappear and the damage to his car is also gone as if the entire event never happened.
Phil finds himself all alone in the cemetery where he finds Sandy's grave and finally learns that she has been one of the undead too, but that restoring the damage done has also made Sandy disappear too. As the time turns twelve midnight, Phil begins to drive back to town when he hears a music dedication on his car radio from 'Sandy' in devoting a song to him implying that she will always be looking after him from beyond the grave.
- Lee Montgomery as Phil Grenville
- Shari Belafonte as Melissa Cavender
- Peter DeLuise as Mitch Crandall
- LeVar Burton as Vinnie Davis
- Dedee Pfeiffer as Mary Masterson
- Jonna Lee as Sandy Matthews
- Jonelle Allen as Lucinda Cavender
- Cindy Morgan as Vicky Jensen
- Kurtwood Smith as Captain Warren Jensen
- Dick Van Patten as Martin Grenville
- Sheila Larken as Janet Grenville
- Wolfman Jack as the radio DJ
- Kevin McCarthy as Judge Crandall
- Macaulay Culkin as a Halloween kid (uncredited)
The Midnight Hour had its world premiere on ABC on Friday, November 1, 1985, at 9:00-11:00 pm EST. The film later aired on occasion during the Halloween season, with an 8 pm airing on the Lifetime network on Wednesday, October 31, 1990. Lifetime continued to air the film on numerous occasions during afternoon time slots, including showings on December 27, 1990, June 19, 1992, and October 31, 1992.
Vidmark released The Midnight Hour on VHS in May 1989. Anchor Bay Entertainment released it on Region 1 DVD on September 19, 2000. The film was previously released on VHS by Anchor Bay Entertainment on July 20, 1999. Both releases of the film are out of print and are extremely rare among collectors.
Rick Sherwood of the San Bernardino Sun deemed the film a "less-than-satisfying teenage monster movie," adding: "The two-hour made-for-TV movie is billed as a humorous horror romp, but The Midnight Hour is really a campy monster bash in which revived corpses break into song and dance. Expect neither tricks nor treats, just lots of rock music, fake-looking special effects, and slow-moving scenes." A review published in The Des Moines Register noted: "The plot is contrived and simple, but the special effects, makeup, and costumes (done by the same person who staged Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video) may be worth the watch," while a review in The Tennesseean described the film as "a sophomoric concoction about a bunch of teenagers who conjure up a gang of goblins." Leonard Maltin wrote in his 1987 film guide that The Midnight Hour was "below average...[a] bland concoction of teen comedies, music videos, horror spoofs, and monster mashes."
Of retrospective assessments on the film, Gary Militzer of DVD Verdict called it "a mediocre made-for-TV horror/comedy" unworthy of a DVD release, while the 2004 DVD and Video Guide deemed it an "enjoyable cross between Night of the Living Dead and An American Werewolf in London, helped along by humor and a lively cast." AllMovie's Robert Firsching wrote: "Cultists and completists may find it worth a look for camp value alone, but most will want to give it a wide berth."
In Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide (2012), Glenn Kay called the film "lavishly produced, but not particularly thrilling," adding that it "has a sickening cuteness to it." Vampire fiction scholar John L. Flynn referred to the film as "a hodgepodge of horror film cliches." John Stanley wrote in Creature Features (2000) that the film was a "violent TV-movie vacillating between graveyard humor and shock thrills." Academic Peter Dendle noted in The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia: "Even zombie movie completists will have a hard time stomaching this lame made-for-TV drivel," also comparing elements of the film's dance sequence to that of the Jackson "Thriller" video, and likening other elements of the film to those of Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (1972) and Grease (1978). Similarly in Cyborgs, Santa Claus and Satan: Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films Made for Television (2009), media scholar Fraser S. Sherman wrote: "This pointless film spends far too much time with teens partying and dancing, and pays much more attention to visuals than to plot."
The film features these songs, as adapted from the film credits:
- Sherwood, Rick (November 1, 1985). "Don't expect tricks". San Bernardino Sun. p. 45 – via California Digital Newspaper Collection.
- "The Midnight Hour (1985)". British Film Institute. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
- Sherman 2009, p. 123.
- The Midnight Hour (DVD)
|url=(help). Anchor Bay Entertainment. 2000 . ASIN 6305971714.CS1 maint: ASIN uses ISBN (link)
- Foy, Scott (October 22, 2011). "B-Sides: A Thriller Rip-Off That'll Make You Want to Get Dead". Dread Central. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
- "Today's Television". Democrat and Chronicle. Rochester, New York. p. 14 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Today's highlights". The Tennesseean. October 31, 1990. p. 30 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Movies". Reno Gazette Journal. Reno, Nevada. December 23, 1990. p. 145 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Movies". Reno Gazette Journal. Reno, Nevada. June 14, 1992. p. 155 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Prime Time and Late Night". The Palm Beach Post. October 31, 1992. p. 105 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Vampires, Canseco Top Weeks' Releases". Spokane-Review. Spokane, Washington. May 12, 1985. p. 18.
- Amazon.com, The Midnight Hour DVD release info
- Militzer, Gary (October 9, 2000). "The Midnight Hour". DVD Verdict. Retrieved August 22, 2014.
- "Blogoween: The Midnight Hour (1985)". The Scope. October 20, 2010. Retrieved August 22, 2014.
- B., Billy (October 31, 2012). "13 Days of Halloween: Retrospective: The Midnight Hour". Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. Retrieved August 23, 2014.
- "MOVIE: 'The Midnight Hour'". The Des Moines Register. November 1, 1985. p. 18 – via Newspapers.com.
- Maltin 1987, p. 631.
- Martin & Porter 2003, p. 719.
- Firsching, Robert. "The Midnight Hour". AllMovie. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
- Kay 2012, p. 174.
- Flynn 1992, p. 229.
- Stanley 2000, p. 267.
- Dendle 2001, p. 110.
- Sherman 2009, pp. 123–24.
- Dendle, Peter (2001). The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-9288-6.
- Flynn, John L. (1992). Cinematic Vampires: The Living Dead on Film and Television, from The Devil's Castle (1896) to Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992). McFarland. ISBN 978-0-899-50659-3.
- Kay, Glenn (2012). Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 978-1-613-74425-3.
- Maltin, Leonard (1987). Leonard Maltin's TV Movies and Video Guide. New American Library. ISBN 978-0-452-25994-2.
- Martin, Mick; Porter, Marsha (2003). DVD and Video Guide 2004. Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0-345-44994-8.
- Sherman, Fraser S. (2009). Cyborgs, Santa Claus and Satan: Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films Made for Television. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-476-61101-3.
- Stanley, John (2000). Creature Features: The Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Movie Guide. Berkley Boulevard Books. ISBN 978-0-425-17517-0.