Monday, September 17, 2012

The Dumb Side of Midnight: "The Dark Side of Midnight" (1984)



Also known as "The Creeper," this little bit of Troma tripe is not a horror film as much as it is a dull study in social studies and small municipal civics.

There be spoilers in this review, so be forewarned.

A murderer is killing in the small town of Fort Smith. The police chief, Cooper, is perplexed and decides to hire a criminologist to help him. Well forget it, says the fat mayor Reilly. There are entire scenes of Reilly and Cooper doing nothing but arguing about how the murders will affect the town's efforts to get the new state university. Cooper and Reilly yell at each other on the phone, hang up, and constantly threaten "to go to the press" with dirt on each other. For a small town, the newspaper comes out twice a day, and they apparently have a giant media machine that is capable of having radio interviews but does not realize a serial killer is slaughtering the town's young.

The criminologist is brought in. He is a toupee sporting cop with the heroic moniker "Brock Johnson." Johnson is played by writer/director Olsen, and he quickly has his character fall in love with Cooper's daughter, just to get in some lip locking scenes.

The killer? Well, you would forget him, too, if you had to sit through twenty minutes of cops reading the paper aloud to each other trying to figure out how to catch this monster. It turns out the Creeper is hiding in the attics of his victims for weeks at a time, coming down in the night to kill. One of his victims is a six year old boy whose body is shown after he is killed...nice, huh? With the Creeper not having a permanent address, hiding in attics and such, he is still able to take his portable typewriter with him and write mocking letters to Johnson. Johnson never reads these letters to us, he just states he gets one, and he knows it is from the killer because he remembers from previous murders that the Creeper's typewriter does not space correctly.

The most ridiculous scene here involves the Creeper breaking into Johnson's apartment and trying to get at his girlfriend. Girlfriend runs down a few flights of stairs as the Creeper takes the elevator down to cut her off. He then chases her back up the stairs. He corners her in the apartment, but leaves when Johnson arrives. Johnson chases the Creeper, who ducks in the elevator and the doors close. Does our hero Brock race down the stairs to cut him off just like the situation minutes before? NO! He tsks, and retreats into his apartment to comfort his gal.

The following paragraph contains the idiotic conclusion, read the spoiler so you will not have to suffer through this film: The Board of Regents puts the new state university in Newton, and the evil mayor has been financially ruined. Now back to the crime spree!

Brock receives another letter from the Creeper. Again, we do not know the contents, just that the Creeper has had his typewriter fixed, since all the letters fall into place correctly. Johnson calls the local typewriter repair shop, asks about the Creeper's specific typewriter, and the owner tells him the Creeper LEFT AN ADDRESS WHERE HE COULD BE FOUND. Did the killer use his real name, or just "The Creeper, Old Mill Road"? Apparently the killer has been subletting, living in an abandoned house during his nonkilling weeks, then his victims' homes when he gets the urge. Johnson runs to the abandoned house, spies the typewriter, AND PUTS A PIECE OF PAPER IN IT TO TEST TYPE AND MAKE SURE IT IS THAT OF THE KILLER! Creeper come home, Creeper chase Brock, Brock set gassy fire trap, blow Creeper up, and the movie comes to a thankful end. Forgive all the caps, but this is such astounding badness.

The small town political angle is the entire thrust of this film. The serial killer is secondary to dry scenes that make C-SPAN look like Univision's bikinis on the beach show "Caliente."

The production values here rival your parents' home movies of their first car. Editing is nonexistent, as scenes are repeated, hair styles change, etc. The acting is routine, with the cast hitting all the wrong words. Droopy facial hair is everywhere, like a Village People fan club meeting.

The video box makes this seem shocking, but it is bored and lifeless, much like myself after viewing this overlong 108 minute mess. Skip it...twice. (*) out of five stars. Get this movie now!: Toxie's Triple Terror, Vol. 5