[review by JA Kerswell]
|A boring shift at a cinema becomes a night of terror in Indonesian slasher MIDNIGHT SHOW.|
MIDNIGHT SHOW - not to be confused with the North American movie from the same year and with the same name and same synopsis (!) - is another slasher gem largely unsung outside of Southeast Asia. It is the midnight showing of a new horror movie at a run-down cinema, one dark and stormy night in 1988. Patrons and staff find themselves locked inside and battle for their lives with a masked psycho. Veering from popcorn slasher thrills to sometimes brutal horror, it is constantly engaging and reveals more surprises and layers than a blood-soaked onion.
The manager at a down-on-its-heels cinema is hoping to attract patrons to the midnight showing of a new horror movie called BOCAH (which translates as CHILD). The film is a dramatisation of a well-known local murder case, where a young boy is shown killing his parents and his younger sister and subsequently dismembering them.
Naya (Acha Septriasa) works the late shift but worries about her sick daughter at home. Her colleague, and projectionist, Juna (Gandhi Fernando) tries to cheer her up but bums her out instead by telling her more about the true story behind that night’s film - including that the now adult killer has recently been released from prison. He further freaks her out by saying how weird it would be if he turned up to watch his own movie. Lusi (Gesata Stella), another usher, says she feels unwell and gets permission from the theatre owner to go home - with the promise of coming back early the next morning. At first, no one appears to be coming to the midnight show and Juna blames the storm raging outside. But eventually, a small, ragtag group arrive, including a young couple and a nervous-looking older man (Arthur Tobing), who is clutching a bag for dear life. Another man, whose face is hidden by a black hoodie, wordlessly buys a ticket. On the concessions counter, they are selling replica masks worn by the killer in the movie - only one is now missing. After a violent encounter inside the auditorium, everyone tries to flee but they find all the exits have been locked and realise they are trapped inside with a vicious killer …
|A masked killer lurks in the aisles in MIDNIGHT SHOW.|
Ginanti Rona’s MIDNIGHT SHOW lovingly decorates its cinema’s hallways with posters of Indonesian genre and erotic film posters from the late 1980s. Obviously, this will resonate with a local audience more - but is still fun to see. Having worked at a cinema when I was younger for two years the staff’s evident boredom at the monotony of their duties hit home. Having to appear cheerful in a place where people come to have fun, but you are on a hamster wheel of tedious popcorn shovelling and ticket stamping certainly resonates. This, of course, is juxtaposed by the sheer adrenaline and terror the staff and patrons experience once they realise their predicament. Cinemas are a great location for slasher or horror movies. Lamberto Bava’s DEMONS (1985) comes to mind, as does that creepy sequence in MESSIAH OF EVIL (1974). The slasher movie has utilised the location to varying effect in everything from MOVIE HOUSE MASSACRE (1984) to the South American THE LAST MATINEE (2020). There is something especially discombobulating about an audience switching from passively consuming horror to viscerally experiencing it - and an audience then passively watching the results.
|Everyone left alive is forced to watch in Ginanti Rona's excellent slasher movie.|
Despite its deceptively simple plot, MIDNIGHT SHOW isn’t a one-trick pony. The slasher action is exemplary. This isn’t a surprise, as Rona cut her teeth as a second unit director on the explosive action movie THE RAID (2011); which was one of the country’s most successful films internationally. However, the film shifts gears just past its halfway point into more brutal territory (but not unbearably so) - although this is a set-up for the film’s ironic and slashtastic climax. It also has a killer reveal that’s one of the best I’ve seen in recent years.
The idea for MIDNIGHT SHOW was inspired when screenwriter Hussein M. Atmojo attended a cinema showing a horror film where the power went out and led to panic. It was filmed in Jakarta between December 2014 and January 2015 at two real cinemas that were on the verge of closing. The film was initially rejected by censors three times because of its gruesomeness but was re-edited successfully and finally released to screens in January 2016 with a +17 certificate.
Yet another excellent Southeast Asian slasher movie little seen in English-speaking territories. MIDNIGHT SHOW demands a larger audience.
female: 5 / male: 9
1) Female stabbed in the neck
2) Female seen dead
3) Male stabbed to death
4) Male stabbed with knife
5) Male found stabbed to death
6) Male has throat cut
7) Male found dead
8) Male has throat cut
9) Female stabbed in the neck
10) Male stabbed in the neck
11) Female stabbed in the stomach
12) Male stabbed in the chest
13) Male has throat slashed
14) Female stabbed in the neck
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