midnight game coverNow available on DVD, via Anchor Bay, is A.D. Calvo’s The Midnight Game, based on an idea by Brett Calvo with the screenplay penned by Rick Dahl. The storyline is straightforward; Shane (Guy Wilson) coaxes his friends into a macabre night of debauchery, mayhem, and murder. The cast includes Renee Olstead, Valentina de Angelis, Shelby Young, and Spencer Daniels. Calvo’s direction is on point; the moments geared toward petrifying viewers are surprisingly effective for a project that didn’t warrant a mainstream cinema release.

After witnessing online footage of others playing something called the Midnight Game, Shane decides he wants to share the perplexing experience with his friends. The perfect opportunity presents itself when Kaitlan (Olstead) decides to have a discreet gathering while her mother (Deborah Twiss) goes out of town on business.

The intimate group of teenagers includes Shane, his girlfriend Jenna (Angelis), Rose (Young), Jeff (Daniels), and their unsuspecting host Kaitlan. Shane cajoles his friends to participate in the hair-raising game and, as a result, the group summons the unfathomable Midnight Man, as 12 a.m. arrives. After which, all manners of the morbid begin to unfold.

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The game has rules and if they are broken the fabled Midnight Man is said to turn the contestants’ worst fears against themselves. If you follow the rules you are supposed to be safe from his wrath; but no one seems capable of complying with all the contest’s regulations.

This film is an absolute delight, despite its seemingly low-budget and scarcely known actors. Horror fans that savor suspense will relish how the film builds to a blood-curdling apex, but it’s the ending that you really should be scared of. Sadly, the muddled climax is the film’s only real downfall.

The tension builds but the result is a letdown, as the picture gets bogged down with trying to be too smart for its own good. Even in a mystery you have to give your audience something to tie up the loose ends and provide a cohesive conclusion; this failure results in the only Achilles heel of The Midnight Game.

For instance, each victim’s fear is clearly identified. Kaitlan is afraid of heights, Rose is haunted by visions of ghosts, Jenna is worried she’ll go crazy, and Jeff is claustrophobic, but Shane’s fear is never fully known. Even in the film’s grizzly ending, his motives and drive are left all but known. Further, Shane receives mysterious phone calls and texts continuously during the movie, which Jenna, in her psychotic state, perceives as another woman, but the source of these messages is never revealed. It seems like knowing his fear would have helped tie things together, or at least shed light on the mystery, and perhaps that would have allowed the final act to come together better.

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All that said, The Midnight Game sits nicely alongside most of the recent mainstream horror films like Insidious (2010) and Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013). The cast of virtual unknowns is very talented and the story is immensely intriguing, so it is a shame that The Midnight Game only made the rounds in 2013 as part of the film festival circuit then as this straight-to-DVD release thereafter.

Had the filmmakers fixed that confusing and mediocre ending, they would most likely have  see their vision on the Silver Screen nationwide. The game should remind partygoers of their times playing with an Ouija board into the clandestine hours of the night, while the movie itself should satisfy even the most cynical of horror connoisseurs.

The Midnight Game is now available on DVD and VOD