Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Midnighters: Happy New Year

Hasn’t anyone ever seen I Know What You Did Last Summer? If you hit a sketchy dude by the side of the road, just call the cops. It will be so much easier that way in the long run. Lindsey and Jeff Pittman do not do that, but they have some good excuses. Like, maybe it was self-defense and they didn’t even know it. Things get complicated quickly in Julius Ramsay’s Midnighters (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Jeff Pittman should have made a New Year’s resolution to get a job, or at least not mow people down when his blood alcohol is over the limit. Since he and his wife Lindsey are already under a lot of stress, they agree to temporarily remove the body from the accident scene that they tidy up as best they can, with the intention of returning to face the music once they have sobered up. It is a swell plan that can’t fail, until they notice the rather thuggish looking man had their address in his pocket. If he was coming to do them ill, it stands to reason, there will be more like him coming in his stead.

Jeff Pittman blames his sister in-law Hannah, which both women resent, even though he is more right than wrong. She had moved back in with the couple after the death of her well-heeled older lover, doing their already strained marriage no favors. It turns out, the late boyfriend was even more mobbed up than she realized. As further visitors turn up, both Jeff and Hannah will try to turn Lindsey against each other, as their New Year turns into A Simple Plan.

Midnighters has some devious twists and turns, but like the Sam Raimi film, it reflects a sense of working class economic malaise. Eighteen grand is not too small a sum to kill someone for in the Pittmans’ world. This is indeed hardscrabble New England, with the emphasis on hard.

Based on her knock-out work in Starry Eyes and Tales of Halloween, Alex Essoe is poised to join the ranks of today’s pseudo rep company of hip horror movie specialists, but she is surprisingly restrained and withdrawn as Lindsey Pittman. In contrast, Dylan McTee brings plenty of cutting attitude and intensity as Jeff. However, Perla Haney-Jardine is just a pill but that is apparently how Ramsay and his screenwriter brother Alston intended her to be.

Cinematographer Alexander Alexandrov makes it all look dark and sinister, in a “wicked” New England kind of way. This is a tense, gritty, and tightly executed film that is too grounded to be horror, but definitely shares some of the stylistic elements. Recommended for fans of one-darned-thing-after-another thrillers, Midnighters opens this Friday (3/2) in New York, at the IFC Center.