Monday, October 11, 2010

Midnight Mass (2003)

Holy moly, Midnight Mass is a terrible movie. But it's in the category of So-Bad-That-It's-Good. First off, it's Christian propaganda wrapped in the guise of a horror film. And like most Christian propaganda, there's nothing subtle about it. It's about as subtle as Mel Gibson (remember him?). I expected characters to turn and look into the camera and say, "It's up to you to turn this world back to a God-fearing Christian world." They do almost as much.

That aside, this film has probably the worst group of actors ever assembled - and i'm including all groups of actors, even third-graders performing a grammar school holiday play. Clearly, it was some Christian group who got a hold of film equipment and money, but decided to do the acting themselves.

The two heroes of the film are Gwen, who is referred to as "the town atheist," and her friend Joe, a fallen priest. Will they both find their way back to the church by the film's end? Of course.

The story combines the vampire legends with the zombie scenario. Basically, the world is overrun with vampires, and there are very few people left. Society has completely broken down.

So how did Gwen, who is on the heavy side, survive this long? Seriously. She seems to have trouble walking. It's both hilarious and painful to watch her move on the screen. Her body seems to be going in several directions at once, and to add to that, she likes to flail her arms around while "acting." And the director (who perhaps subconsciously hated this poor woman) has her running in a couple of scenes, and walking on sand in another scene. And he has her riding a bicycle. Basically he does everything he can to make her look even worse.

Every time she's on screen, all i could think was, "How is this one of the few people who have survived?" She never sleeps. She carries no provisions. She has no survival plan. She has no place to hide during the night. In fact, she just wanders around at night when the vampires are out. She has no weapons (except of course for a large cross that she wears, even though she's an atheist - a cross which sometimes disappears for a few scenes, then reappears). And she can't run, or even walk well. She has no skills whatsoever. How has she survived?

The only clue we get to her survival is at the beginning of the film, when a group of humans who serve the vampires capture her (easily). They're about to put her in their car, when they see a more attractive blonde and decide to get her instead, figuring they can always come back and get the fat girl later. So basically the vampires aren't interested in her. Poor girl, you get the idea that no one has ever been interested in her.

When the characters aren't preaching to the audience (and even sometimes when they are), there are some hilarious lines in this film. Like this line from Gwen: "I'm okay. As okay as I can be sitting in a Catholic church eating stew." And there is a girl, Mickey, who laments that she used to think vampires were cool and that Anne Rice was cool and on and on, but now sees how wrong she was. And then she blurts out, "I never wanted to see a dead baby." Not that we've seen any dead babies on screen or anything, or that any have been mentioned up to now.

And it seems that Mickey, before she returned to the church, was involved in a lesbian relationship with one of the vampires' servants. The only thing more frightening to Christians than vampires is of course gay people. But Mickey is over that bit of nastiness and has repented.

This movie also has - and this blew me away - a musical montage scene where the priest and the atheist and a few other people clean up the church to restore it to a proper Christian place. They remove corpses and rebuild crosses and on and on - it's like those wonderful 1980s montages where in the span of one song, a group of characters completes some impossible task. I never expected a scene like that in this film.

And of course because uptight Christians are really doing their best to hide their repressed desires, there are wonderful twisted sex scenes with flagellation and cutting and fur restraints (which i totally want, by the way). Of course, it's the "bad guys" who engage in such behavior - but it's clear that the filmmakers really enjoyed these scenes. They seemed to take more care on these than on any other scenes. Ah, if only these silly bastards could admit their true desires, the world would be a better place.

This insane pile of propaganda was directed Tony Mandile, who also co-wrote the script and even appears as an actor in the film. Ouch. This is the only film Tony directed, amen. And this is the only film that Pamela Karp (who plays Gwen) ever appeared in. Amen again.

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