A low-budget thriller with an ambitious premise, MIDNIGHT EDITION has the look of a direct-to-video thriller that received a fortuitous theatrical release. Taut and well-acted, it does far more with its premise than many bigger-budgeted pictures, including the similar JUST CAUSE (1995) and
THE MEAN SEASON (1985).
Journalist Jack Travers (Will Patton) has just returned to little Jericho, Georgia, after an unsuccessful shot at the big time that didn't pan out and all but ruined his marriage. His wife Sarah (Clare Wren) and daughter Maggie (Nancy Moore-Atchison) welcome him back, and he takes a job at the
Jericho Journal just as the biggest news in living memory breaks: an entire local farm family has been slaughtered by a charming young drifter.
Darryl Weston (Michael DeLuise) is a reporter's dream: handsome, articulate, and willing to be interviewed at length, as long as Travers continues to bring him his favorite dish, broiled shrimp with garlic butter. Travers sees Weston as his ticket out, the second chance no-one ever gets. The
jailhouse interviews are picked up by a national wire service, and after years of obscurity, Travers's name is again in the public eye. His brain clouded by visions of book contracts, Pulitzer Prizes, and movie rights, Travers enters into an unholy alliance with Weston. Travers thinks he's too
clever to be taken advantage of by an ignorant young murderer, but he's wrong. It starts with little favors, like the shrimp, and progresses to liquor and drugs. Weston persuades Travers to contact his hot and trashy young girlfriend, Becky (Sarabeth Tucek), who puts the moves on the older man and
tightens the bond between him and the murderous outlaw. Travers has tasted fame, and it's inextricably linked to Weston; Travers's greatest fear is that when Weston is tried and executed, he'll wind up back in the ranks of forgotten small-town journalists.
Eventually, Travers is tricked/seduced into helping Weston escape; during the breakout, the journalist sees Weston's true ruthlessness when he betrays the loyal Becky without so much as a second thought. The psychological cat-and-mouse game comes to a brutally physical conclusion when Weston
shows up at Travers's house--as Travers knew he would--and Travers has to destroy the monster he helped nurture.
The first feature film by Howard Libov (who directed, co-wrote, and co-produced), a graduate of NYU and the AFI Director's Program, MIDNIGHT EDITION is essentially an arty exploitation movie. That said, the independently produced film is well written, and Libov shows a real flair for moody,
atmospheric direction. Psychological thrillers are harder than they look; if the mood isn't exactly right, audiences see right through the smoke and mirrors to the tricks. MIDNIGHT EDITION is loosely based on reporter Charles Postell's non-fiction Escape of My Dead Man, an account of Postell's
relationship with convicted killer Carl Isaacs, whom he interviewed on death row in 1973. The case, which involved the spree murder of a rural Georgia family by Isaacs and his half-brother, Wayne Coleman, also inspired the 1988 film MURDER ONE, which told the story from the perspective of Isaacs'
younger brother Billy, who turned state's evidence.
Unlike many low-budget films, MIDNIGHT EDITION is consistently well acted, though the female characters, especially Travers's wife, are given short shrift. Sarabeth Tucek is a memorable Becky, a trailer park wet dream of a serial killer groupie, and Nancy Moore-Atchison is really impressive as
11-year-old Maggie; she steers entirely clear of cute kid histrionics. As is often the case with films about vicious murderers, Darryl Weston is the film's most compelling character, a baby-faced Hannibal Lecter in the making with a politician's grasp of human nature. It's Weston who manipulates
the rest of the film's characters--from Becky to Travers to the town sheriff--and it's Weston to whom all eyes turn whenever he's on screen. Michael DeLuise delivers an excellent performance, but the material with which he has to work is choice. Will Patton does his best to make Travers a worthy
opponent, but the decent guy who refuses to give in to his dark demons invariably winds up being less arresting than the monster who embraces them. (Violence, profanity, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: R
- Review: A low-budget thriller with an ambitious premise, MIDNIGHT EDITION has the look of a direct-to-video thriller that received a fortuitous theatrical release. Taut and well-acted, it does far more with its premise than many bigger-budgeted pictures, including… (more)