Film Reviews

The Midnight Hour: The ’80s Halloween Special

Group of costumed people with clawed hand

The Midnight Hour was a movie I found recently that fits the Halloween season. It’s a movie that was made for kids and teens but from the 1980s. The film was a TV movie in the horror and thriller market of the made-for-television movies that seems to of disappeared on regular television cable packages.

This isn’t like the Disney channel’s Halloweentown but it is more ghoulish and spookier in comparison. It originally aired on ABC but can be found on other affiliate channels like the Lifetime network. It’s very much a Disney film with the dancing and singing but it is odd enough for me to write about.

The Midnight Hour starts with Phil (Lee Montgomery), a fairly boring stiff teenager, being told by his parents to loosen up and have some fun especially on Halloween goes to school to do a history report presentation on his city’s witchcraft trials in the 1800s. His group of friends are a bunch of mischievous teenagers, a.k.a. Hellraisers, who steal some old clothes from a historical display only out on Halloween night. They go to the cemetery to have some early Halloween fun before going to a big costume party. One of Phil’s friends, Melissa (Shari Belafonte-Harper), who happens to be a descendant of the witch who practiced witchcraft previously discussed in the history report presentation, reads a parchment scroll from an opened box they took from the historical display. It was a written curse to raise the dead and bring evil onto the world. She unknowingly and accidentally raises the dead. Ghosts, ghouls and surprisingly werewolves come back from the dead but the witch who wrote the curse on the scroll comes back as a vampire. They all crash the Halloween party Melissa was throwing.

Screenshot of The Midnight Hour. Sandy and Phil at the police station.

Sandy (Jonna Lee), a ghost in a cheerleader outfit mistaken for a 1950’s vintage costume wanders around town looking for her old haunts but so much has changed from her time. She meets up with Phil for a meet-cute date but a werewolf attacks them in his car at a park. The police don’t believe them while being swamped with reports of monsters’ citings. Therefore, Phil and Sandy are off trying to solve how to get all the undead back in the grave and sealing the witch’s curse.

The film is dated being 35 years old with Wolfman Jack on the radio has the in-between guy for the audience. A very similar role that was popular in films like The Warriors and Vanishing Point were the radio jockey semi-narrates the film to a point. The difference is that Wolfman Jack is not on camera in any way only featured in a voice acting role. The storytelling is very similar to the Disney family movie formula with a semi-happy ending and a musical dancing scene somehow in the film.

The movie is spooky with the ghouls makeup being gaunt and some shots of the attacks being very much in the style of a TV movie from the 80s with slow-motion takes and fairly violent without being graphic. There’s barely any blood in the movie minus the vampire bite on a neck which looks as if someone squirted two lines on someone’s neck to resemble a vampire bite. The zombies are withered and blue dressed in rags. The vampire fangs are well crafted and the werewolves are very “wolfy” even though for a movie that references werewolves a lot throughout the film with music it’s mostly filled with vampires and zombies. The sets, the effects and the practical effect show that this was not a small production.

Screenshot of The Midnight Hour. Teenage ghouls in view.

The music is pretty good with a lot of classics. Number one hits like How Soon Is Now? by The Smiths, Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival, In The Midnight Hour by Wilson Pickett are in the film. Most of the music has a Halloween theme like incorporating werewolves in the lyrics. But the weird Halloween musical number called “Get Dead” sung by Shari Belafonte-Harper was okay and strange. It’s about being a part of the zombie undead. It’s a fun ’80s dance number similar to the style of Thriller. In whole, the film is surprising an okay soundtrack movie.

Screenshot of The Midnight Hour. Zombie back from the dead at his first party in years.

The acting is a bit goofy within the teen movie acting style of that time. It has one of the most teenage and goofiest vampires and zombies I have ever seen on film. The teen vampire always crossing her eyes for the up-close camera shots and the zombies at the house party have there own way of grunt talking and zombie couples being a bunch of zombie layabouts. It almost feels like the actors knew the market for the film and knew not to go too scary which was good for the kids but meh for the adults watching. The romance between Sandy and Phil was actually nice and fit the story in answering how they know each other let alone help each other to stop the evil uprising.

It was directed by Jack Bender who went off to direct television shows like Lost, The Sopranos and Game of Thrones but did a lot of horror and thrillers for the made for TV marketplace at the time. The film has a lot of shifts in tone where some parts are comedic, scary and teen movie.

This film has a cult following and was initially was released November 1 in 1985, a day after Halloween on ABC. Better late than never. But the film re-aired for five years on Halloween for the Halloween season and time slot. The majority of the film is based on the happenings at the after school Halloween party and not so much terror from the haunting and the ghouls rising from the dead. When I watched the film for the first time I found the film to be very much a Halloween film.

Genre: Comedy/ Horror
Year: 1985
Duration: 94 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Three out of five stars

All screenshots are from the film
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