Midnighters, the Hitchcockian noir film distributed by IFC Midnight, is finally available on Netflix. Written and directed by the Ramsay brothers, Midnighters is a small indie movie that has slowly built solid word of mouth among critics. Its story of a troubled married couple and a dead body promises some simple Hitchcockian suspense for film fans. No, it’s not a horror film, but if you enjoyed earlier Netflix releases like Calibre or Kaleidoscope, Midnighters may be that hidden gem you’ve been looking for.
Jeff and Lindsey, a young married couple, are out celebrating New Year’s Eve, but with little to celebrate. Their marriage is on the rocks. Lindsey makes ends meet working in a bank, while an unemployed Jeff struggles to renovate and flip their house. Things take a more drastic turn when they hit and kill a stranger on a dark stretch of road. Jeff, who was drinking at the party, convinces Lindsey to wait before calling the police. It’s a decision that will set the couple on a dangerous path with no turning back.
Midnighters Twists and Turns With the Best Noir Films
Midnighters’ strength lies in its simplicity. Alston Ramsay has written a lean screenplay complimented by director and brother Julius Ramsay’s stripped down film-making. Ramsay takes that initial marital discord between Jeff and Lindsey and plants the seeds for later betrayals and twists. And Midnighters twists and turns with some of the best recent noir movies. To some extent, a few twists are telegraphed, but there are certainly fresh surprises in those last 15 to 20 minutes.
Midnighters is a noir film driven by its characters’ flaws and insecurities.
The Ramsay brothers reward patient movie fans that won’t mind the movie’s slow-burn approach. Midnighters’ first reveal that the dead stranger was on his way to the couple’s home serves as the perfect catalyst for all that follows. It sets in motion a chain reaction of events furthered by characters’ shortcomings and mistrust of one another. It’s the focus on character that distinguishes the movie. Midnighters is a noir film driven by its characters’ flaws and insecurities.
Effective Style on a Low a Budget
Midnighters is clearly a low-budget effort. Nevertheless, director Julius Ramsay never allows the budget to limit the suspense and tension. Aside from some clever cinematography here and there, Ramsay largely allows the tension to emerge from characters and dialogue. Violence is used sparsely in Midnighters to great effect. Ramsay’s restraint allows the few moments of violence to genuinely shock and provoke discomfort.
It’s a well-earned ending that brings together all of the movie’s small details.
Everything culminates in a straightforward but fun climax. Though you can see the betrayals and double-crosses coming, Ramsay’s juxtaposition of two relationships disintegrating feels fresh. To his credit, Ramsay also executes an impressively stylish final confrontation that is in no way limited by the movie’s budget. At the movie’s conclusion, the final reveal actually caught me off guard. It’s a well-earned ending that brings together all of the movie’s small details.
Ward Horton Makes for a Fun Villain
Given the movie’s budgetary constraints, the cast is largely made up of lesser known actors. As the married couple on the rocks, Alex Essoe and Dylan McTee give appropriately understated performances. McTee clearly has less experience, but it never drags down the movie. Perla Haney-Jadrine, as younger sister Hannah, may remind some horror fans of a young Heather Langenkamp.
But Midnighters belongs to Ward Horton. His portrayal of the villainous Smith is equal parts charismatic and menacing. Even once you realize something is amiss with his character, you still can’t help but be drawn in. The Ramsay brothers give Horton the movie’s best dialogue and he makes the words dance. He makes for a fun villain and stands out as a highlight.
Midnighters is an Effective, Minimalist Thriller
Ultimately, Midnighters scores with its simple premise and straightforward approach to suspense. The Ramsay brothers offer up enough twists to their story and capture it with minimal but stylish filmmaking to satisfy most fans of noir thrillers. It’s a ‘ less is more approach’ to which more filmmakers should aspire. If the momentum drags just a little in the middle, Midnighters’ conclusion more than makes up for it.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: A-