File this one under the "nice try" category. MIDNIGHT FEAR is an underpopulated thriller that tries to keep the audience guessing. Trouble is, most of the time they'll guess right.
The locale is a logging town rocked by a bloody dismemberment and portentious mood music. As washed-up, boozing Sheriff Steve Hanley (David Carradine) tries to pull himself together and solve the slaying, the scene switches to a remote farm, where Jenny (August West), an attractive coed, has
chosen to spend spring break house-sitting, horse-riding and fighting off unwanted sexual advances from fellow student David (Evan Richards), a self-described nerd who's obsessed with the heroine and, significantly, likes to quote the looney Jack Nicholson character from THE SHINING. Suddenly
appearing on the scene are two menacing fugitives, scruffy Paul Prexton (Craig Wasson) and his deaf-mute brother, John (Page Fletcher), whom Paul has just liberated from a mental institution.
The setup is just too obvious, as a knife disappears from the kitchen and a horse turns up slaughtered. One is supposed to think that wild-eyed John or lustful Paul did it, but the pair couldn't be more of a red herring if they had fins and scales. Young David is the mad slasher, driven to kill
because necrophilia is the only way he can succeed with girls, even on spring break. The pathetic John is also smitten with the terrified Jenny and tries to defend her, Quasimodo-fashion. But Sheriff Hanley deduces something suspicious is going down at the farm, and the stage is set for a downbeat
ending that's only a shade less predictable than what's gone before.
The filmmakers certainly possess an interesting resume: Los Angeles-based Crain Productions make well-known educational videos in the series I AM JOE'S LUNG, I AM JOE'S HAND, I AM JOE'S HEART, etc. Lovers of movie gore may find that a splendid qualification, but MIDNIGHT FEAR is a classier
production than it sounds. Director Bill Crain both avoids crass nudity and averts his camera from serious bloodletting, and cinematographer Michael Crain lends a dreamy, quality gloss to the nocturnal imagery. No, the problems are banal, transparent plotting (like most celluloid psychos, David is
able to die and come back to life an indefinite number of times) and a skimpy storyline padded with long, dull interludes of skulking and lurking to push the running time to the 90-minute mark.
Lost in the stuffing is a fine turn by Carradine, whose frequent casting as stonefaced tough guys has lately left his acting talents sadly underrated. As Hanley, Carradine does a credible portrait of an alcoholic lawman fighting to stay focused and wrap up the case. Unfortunately he fades in and
out of the tale, and one never even gets a hint of what drove Hanley to the bottle in the first place. The younger characters gain points for actually looking like they could be college-age, and damsel-in-distress West has a winsome vulnerability, even if Jenny's never quite as smart as she's
supposed to be.
This production was originally called "Moonlight Sonata," after the piano piece that Jenny performs from time to time, and it was filmed in 1990 in Coeur d'Alene and Hayden, Idaho, for the home video and cable-TV markets. (Violence, substance abuse, profanity, adult situations.)
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Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1992
- Rating: NR
- Review: File this one under the "nice try" category. MIDNIGHT FEAR is an underpopulated thriller that tries to keep the audience guessing. Trouble is, most of the time they'll guess right. The locale is a logging town rocked by a bloody dismemberment and portenti… (more)