Midnighters

Studio: IFC Midnight
Directed by Julius Ramsay

Mar 16, 2018 Web Exclusive
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Julius Ramsay’s Midnighters opens with a fairly common storyline for genre thrillers. An average couple decide to leave a New Year's Eve party early to head home after having an uneventful night. Neither appear to be having too much fun at this party. Lindsey (Alex Essoe) even goes to find Jeff (Dylan McTee), already outside, having a smoke and clearly waiting to leave. It’s subtle touch, but it already gives the audience a peek into their dynamic. Jeff being isolated and seemingly annoyed that he was dragged to Lindsey’s work function already plays into the beat that Jeff is probably not the greatest husband. They have both had a few drinks but neither of them appear to be overtly intoxicated. On their way home, as Jeff tries to spice things up, he takes his eyes off the road and immediately slams the car into a man. It’s a familiar, but jarring, few minutes as Lindsey and Jeff try to come up with the best solution for their predicament. Naturally, the decide to take the unresponsive stranger to their house as they sober up and think things over. It’s a really bad decision, and needless to say things don’t exactly go well for Lindsay and Jeff.

Midnighters may begin with a familiar and stale structure. However, as the story progresses and the audience gets a better look into the strained relationship between Lindsey and Jeff, this simple murder cover-up story is filled with surprising twists and turns. Contained within the small space of Lindsey and Jeff’s fixer-upper vintage home, the stress and cracks of their marriage are on full display. The deterioration and lack of support is felt within these walls and characters. It’s no surprise that Jeff turns out to be an insecure and self-serving guy who doesn’t contribute to this relationship on any emotional or financial level. Every burden is placed on Lindsey’s shoulders as she is forced to play along with this grisly crime. She not only has to protect Jeff, but her troubled sister Hannah (Perla Haney-Jardine) who becomes part of the cover-up accidentally. Even as Lindsey frantically scrubs dried blood off of the garage floor, Jeff begins to trail off into a fun anecdote about cleaning their first shitty apartment together. You can feel Lindsey’s frustration as they’re not really in this plan together and it’s Lindsey literally doing the dirty work. Lindsey is the responsible one because she has to be the responsible one. It’s easy for Jeff to make light of the situation because he knows Lindsey will take action as she always does. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it was Lindsey who did all the cleaning back then too.

The obvious small budget of Midnighters ends up working to its advantage as horrific gore is substituted for tense scoring and quick editing between shots. Less is always more, and Midnighters is throughly convincing with it’s implied physical horror. I won’t spoil too much, but there is a real nail biter scene with Lindsey and seemingly good-cop Smith (played with uncanny glee by Ward Horton) that is sure to have you squirming.

Writer Alston Ramsay is able to keep things tight and builds upon the increasing stress of this marriage and their murder cover-up. Thrillers are best when they are contained within small spaces and minimal players and Midnighters is successful in the way it quickly moves through its pacing without getting too hung up on the details. While characters aren’t as fleshed out as they could be, Midnighters still manages to create a surprisingly effective noir thriller. 

(www.ifcfilms.com/films/midnighters)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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