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The opening of this film is quite powerful; it's a short montage of newscasters reading about a rapidly spreading vampire plague that is decimating civilization. Like most movies nowadays, it's reminiscent of other movies, in this case Charleton Heston's “The Omega Man” and the broadcasts during the original “Night of the Living Dead.” But most of the newscasters look a little too er, young and uncoiffed, or perhaps unprofessional, and the CDC guy looks like Flounder from “Animal House.” But these are minor quibbles. The frequent fades to static are very well done.
The final scene is of a militant-looking woman saying that the vampires have taken over and that she is now going off the air. She tells us that sunlight, crosses and destroying the heart are the only true defenses. Cut to static. Then cut to shots of an apparently (and convincingly) deserted city.

The next scene shows a young woman sitting on a bench, just sort of staring at the ocean. A group of goths start harrassing her; apparently, the goths work for the vampires, gathering victims during the daylight hours. Luckily for the girl, another woman is returning from grocery shopping (?!) and drops an apple which rolls in sight of the goths. They turn their attention to her, allowing the first girl to escape (good thing for the goths that the apple didn't fall off a tree, I guess). The second girl is taken to a de-sanctified church and is killed by the vampire priest. The first girl watches all this through a window.

As it turns out, this first girl is our hero. She's described as a “militant atheist” on the movie box and she generally seems...well, I don't want to say “obnoxious” so let's call her aggressive in her views.

Now, so far in the film, here's my problem. We all know people in the movies never act the way people in real life do. People aren't as resourceful or heroic as movie characters (not typically, at any rate; I know there are real heroes in the real world, but bear with me). Most of us, faced with an actual monster in our face, would probably drop dead of fright, no matter how we think or hope we might act.

But movies aren't real life. They're drama. And in drama, it helps the audience to invest sympathy (audience identification) into a character who is actually sympathetic. And this woman just got another woman killed, because she was moping out in the open in a world where vampires have taken over. Does she even try to rescue this second woman? No, she just goes to watch, so she can tell everyone that the world sucks.

As a matter of fact...it almost looks as if our heroine used this second woman to make her escape. Um...wow. So, in both cases, we have an innocent sacrificed to a cause (the vampires, the heroine's escape). Who we supposed to “vote” for?

This is a problem that also crops up in The Keep, also based on a work by co-scenarist F. Paul Wilson, and better discussed in my review of same (*cough*) which will be finished any day now.

What are we to make of this? Perhaps (and I hate to sound this tired idea) that's the way that a film-maker can show the audience that he has an “attitude” and an “edge” and all those other things that get written up in film journals. His film doesn't follow “the rules.” But it doesn't make for compelling drama. You know, all those “rules” you hear about? They're there for a reason, you know. Honestly. And there are times when you can break them for an incredible effect. But you have to respect them in order to break them effectively. You have to know why they are there in the first place. If you don't, you're just playing with a camera. Of course, I could be reading way too much into this.

So, anyway, after a solid base hit (the opening montage) we have our first out. And it's not one of those “Oh, well,” outs, it's a solid line-drive directly to the 2nd baseman's glove. Ouch.

Um, okay, where were we? After the second woman is killed, the lead goth guy is turned into a genuine vampire, like he always wanted. And while the Heroine pedals away on her bicycle, a random vampire attacks her, and kills himself by running into a tree with a prominent branch. We're supposed to be scared of these people, or are they more dangerous through their clumsiness? I can forgive this sort of thing, in the right context. I can forgive anything in the right level of true sincerity. But this movie has trod onto the wrong foot.

Our heroine is looking for Father Joe, and eventually finds him. He observes, “You've lost weight” and I think...very uncharitable thoughts. Forgive me, Father Joe. But our Heroine is short and dumpy...I mean, stocky. Nothing wrong with that, plenty of people are the same way, but let's not make them sex symbols. Now, wouldn't that be an interesting film? Non-perfect body types as the heroes, the fit and desirable succomb to...um, raging narcissism. Or whatever.

Anyway, our Heroine gives us a full spectrum of Attitude.

Let me digress for a moment (“What, AGAIN?” you think). There was a film made by Gillian Armstrong after her breakthough “My Brilliant Career.” It was called “Starstruck” and like Ms. Armstrong herself (alas) it's little more than a footnote now. But it was a fun movie, and it taught me a valuable lesson: if you have a character who is basically unsympathetic, introduce him in a manner that invites audience sympathy. In this case, it was the heroine's brother, who was her manager and lyricist. He was extremely off-putting, but his first scene showed him being bullied. So our sympathies go to him. And when he becomes obnoxious, we forgive him, because we saw how he suffered earlier. It's the basis of one of my Twelve Hundred Rules of Cinema: How your Character is FIRST Perceived is how He Will ALWAYS be Perceived (barring betrayal or some such). So, if you had showed Our Heroine SAVING someone in her first scene, that would be the initial impression, and we would be behind her. As it is, she let someone else be killed in her stead, and that's colored her. Her Attitude is not inspiring, it's off-putting.

So, back to Midnight Mass. Father Joe and our Heroine (she still hasn't been named) go to...a bar. Yes, that's realistic, because that's where I'd go if vampires took over the world, but nobody is going to make a movie about what I think. Folks talk and drink and kill time.

Oops, my bad, the bar scene was just a digression. Father Joe and Heroine are still at his place. What was that all about then? Hello? But Our Heroine finally has a name: Gwen. Okay, the chemistry between Gwen and Joe is nice and natural. Points there. But then Joe mentions Anarchy (“It's what you always wanted!”), and Gwen goes into Bad Actress Ballistic. Then it's back to nice and natural. Trying to give points, here.

You know, honestly, HONESTLY, when I sit down to see a movie, I want to like it. I try to put any and all prejudices aside, and just enjoy what the movie has to offer. If the film honestly tries, I'll cut it any length of slack. You want me to believe in X? Sure, here you go. But in order to be honest, I have to take away, too. So while I will like a number of films that others scorn, I'm not a film whore. Respect me, and I'll respect you. The point is this: So far, Midnight Mass is square in the minus category. But I don't believe (OK, a couple of exceptions) that anything is either all good or all bad. If I can give Midnight Mass a couple of positive things, a couple of points of praise, I will do so. But I'm not going to slack on the bad stuff. You want one, you get the other, too. Same price.

Anyway--Father Joe is worried about some trumped-up pederasty charge, which put the local (vampire) bishop in charge, and which keeps him (Father Joe) from being more active. You know, I hate to mention it, but...vampires...and all. You know...vampires? Kind of more important, I would think. Note: no, not to those children abused by priests in the real world. We're not talking about the real world, remember. And I have great sympathy for abused children, and their parents. But, honestly, given the choise, would you rather they were abused sexually or turned into vampires? OK, bad question, sheesh, back to my rock.

Later, I'm out again, and Gwen has been awoken in the night. She searches for noises in Father Joe's crash pad, and we're expecting a False Scare. Because we know how these things work. Striker, stop bugging me!

She goes searching in the increasingly dark bits of Father Joe's crash pad, and finds a pretty obvious vampire feeding. But Father Joe and she fight it off. I guess that was to wake us up, or something. The vampire runs off to die.

They find the dead vampire, and there's Some Talk. And More Talk. And Gwen's bike has been wrecked. And the music cues us to think that Father Joe is trying to give the dead vampire the last rites. And then there's some banter between Father Joe and Gwen. She tries to badger him to come with her, but given her earlier behavior...sorry, it doesn't ring.

But we do get some cool imagery. And some normal people on the beach! Playing with kites and such. Uh. Um. Well, it's kind of cool. Gwen tells us the vamps were always here, just got organized. She certainly seems to know a lot about them, given that she was earlier almost caught by their stooges and couldn't save one of their victims. Yes, very unfair of me.

There are some clever cinematographic tricks here and there, but the acting um, remains pretty bad. Father Joe and Gwen wander around and find a small child praying over some flowers. But it turns out she was a plant by the goths. The child acted as a lure because he goths told her if she did, she would see her mom (who of course is already dead).

So far, this film details nicely how the vampire myth has mutated in modern times. It used to be, that the vampires were damned by religion; no matter their powers or abilities, they were gonna go to Hell and it was just a matter of time; but nowadays, Heaven and Hell are myths and vampires are seen without any religious overtones...they're eternally youthful, sexy and super-powered, and that damned sunlight business is their only natural weakness. Who wouldn't want to be a vampire, and live forever in eternal youth? Who indeed? Without any of the established church's power of condemnation, and the promise of eternal damnation removed, what the hell? Vampirism is just another Alternative Life Style, yes? And there are no consequences, ever, except those meted out by Those in Power, the Christian Right, or whoever the current bogey is. It's simply another view in the black leather, mirror-shaded, black lipstick mirror.

Which is why, honestly, this film's view of goths as evil is so odd to the vampire viewpoint. Are goths just condemnable poseurs? I might venture to guess that the film is smarter than I give credit, except that I've already given a lot of credit and none of the bills have been paid yet. So, Father Joe and Gwen were captured by the same goths from eariler in the film (though I'm sure that's not the name of their gang)...

Then, just when we don't really suspect it, a sniper on the rooftops scares away the goths. None of them are shot or killed, or anything, but they all drive away and leave Joe and Gwen alone. And we go to a tattoo parlor. There's a lot of bickering, and some chatter, and some useless dull talk while decent heavy metal plays in the background, then the power starts fluctuating. Well, anyone who has ever seen any movie at any time knows that CAN'T be good.

And sure enough...well, hell, we've been frustrated by our heroine, and our hero, and by the vampires, and the goths, and assorted what-nots...but surely that frustration can't continue? Don't be silly! They may not know what makes a good film, but they know what makes a good trailer.

So, Father Joe and Gwen and the tattoo parlor folks (a rasta haired big white guy and a goth-looking chick...hm, a goth-looking good person? How many sides does that fence have?) defeat some lame Vampires. Wimpires more like. The whole bit is shot so dark it's hard to see anything at all. Okay, yes, the power is out, but we're talking MOVIE here, not real life. Let us see something, okay people? Anyway, it turns out Tattoo Guy and Hot Goth Chick (I'll admit it, she's hot) do most of the work. Father Joe and Gwen show up at the last minute. But there's sadness, cos Tattoo guy got bit! Oh the (non) humanity. Then we cut to Father Joe and Gwen in some run down hotel. Tender music plays, and I'm really starting to get scared there's going to be a...romantic scene. But there's just more chatter. And there's some lame camparisons between Nazis and Vampires. And hey, the goths who cooperate with the vampires have tattoos that identify them to the local “vampire nest.” Wow, have I ever heard anything like that? Gee it's on the Blade of my tongue, here.

Anyway, we start to get some exposition from Gwen. The goths cooperate with the vampires so they can be immortal too. But Father Joe asks, not unreasonable, why not just bare your neck to the nearest vampire? Gwen answers that it's all a scam. The vampires don't want too many of their own kind around, because they'd soon run out of humans and they would all starve. Wow, this actually makes some sense! Geez, movie, about time. I guess that means most of the goths are in for a surprise, shock ending! Please don't give away the surprise, shock ending!

Another good point made by Gwen here: she points out that animals reproduce through instinct, whereas human beings do so by choice. And since everyone's pretty depressed, no one's having any kids, and the vampires are starting to run low on food. This is one good contrast between this film and cough Blade, where the vampires were content to carefully harvest humans over the course of centuries. But since these vampires came about through a virus (for the most part) they simply exploded over the local food supply.

Of course, I have one question, if vampires are immortal, how can they starve? In most of the vampire movies I've seen, vampires seem to be opportunity feeders...yeah, they love blood, and seeing someone alone out on the moors makes them abandon good judgement, but they never seem like they get overwhelmed by the munchies. Once in a while they go out to eat, they never seem like they need three squares a day. I bet if they had Cartoon Network they'd never leave the house, er, crypt.

Anyway, back to our ordeal. I mean movie. Honestly, I meant movie, I don't know what made me type that. Ahem.

Gwen says that the vampires kidnap women to use as breeding stock, to breed more food. Aparently they're raped by the goths (icky enough in itself). They speculate that most of the original vampires (I assume they mean the first plague victims) are getting weak and sick from lack of food, and if enough goths become vampires, they will become the dominant strain.

But you know, there's a way out for the vampires. If they initiate goths privately, and mention that only the very strong (or very faithful—even better) become vampires, they can kill (permanently) lots of them before any of the Goths catch on.

Now, we cut to an old church, at night, and Father Joe and Gwen are sneaking up to see. I assume they're going to see another sacrifice to the vampires. Yeah, some young guy, he gets killed, everyone eats. The sucking noises are really overdone. Father Joe watches and vomits on the lawn. I guess he's never seen a vampire kill someone? Where the hell has he been all this time?

Now we have another daylight scene. You know, if vampires took over the world, I would spend most of my time in the day and not wander around at night. But that's just me.

And this bit is (kind of) effective. They enter the church...and there's the overwhelming sound of millions of flies. We get quick cuts of victims (less effective) and then the fly noise is gone. And that was the best part! Then some Peter Boyle looking guy (Carl) shows up and says “Father Joe! You're back to save us!” and so on. Turns out that one of the Goth women who tried to kidnap Gwen and Father Joe was Carl's daughter. And Carl was the guy on the roof shooting at the goths when they captured Joe and Gwen. Wow, small world, isn't it? Okay, that's not fair, I guess. Perhaps his daughter has enough feelings for him that she wouldn't hunt down her dad. Maybe. And it explains why Carl didn't shoot anyone, cos he has feelings for her, too. I guess. I mean, geez (sorry Father) they're killing people for the vampires and all.

Oh well, Carl is gonna help, and get food, and hey, let's put on a show! No, not really the last bit.

Now we have happy acoustic guitar music as everyone cleans up the bodies. Um...kay. Then what happens is, see, some of the old parishoners of Father Joe's show up and help! And it's like, wow, community coming together and all that! I guess I forgot to mention this used to be Father Joe's church. And there's more montage as they clean everything up and all, in what seems like a few minutes.

And we cut to...a kinky sex scene. Uh. This guy is all chained up and hot 'n' bothered, and this naked chick kills him. Remember: vampires. Hands up how many people would be engaging in kinky bondage sex when vampires are running around? Personally, I think that's the sort of urge I would control right away. Or at least do it in the daytime or something. Anyway, once the idiot is dead, naked chick looks wistfully at a photo of her and some other gal. Looks like one of the parishoners. The scene's got like pathos and everything. Well, not really, but you know.

Gwen has an Oscar Clip moment, where she regrets—as a “devout atheist” working in a church all day. You know, Gwen, I haven't had much sympathy for you before and I'm not getting much more. All I can say to you Gwen is “Hey, there's VAMPIRES and maybe they're more dangerous than folks who have religious beliefs.” Some people, good grief!

Anyway, naked chick's sister has her Oscar Clip moment, when she talks about how she always thought vampires were sexy, Anne Rice types.

And then Carl and Gwen have a theological argument. If you want to call it that. Carl's argument is basically “Man got too big!” Gwen doesn't really have an argument, but she asks why God would wipe out all these people because they pissed him off? And Carl says, “Maybe he wanted to send a message to those who DIDN'T piss him off!”

I just thought that would have been a nice Trailer Moment.

Gwen talks, but it's kind of easy to ignore her. She's worried about the goths. Ooh, nice place to put your sympathies.

Anyway, Father Joe's planning a Last Stand. And a goth shows up, Hey, like, whuzzup? He gets a (non-fatal) knife in the chest, and is told, “Go tell Vampire Priest, Father Joe is back!”

Later That Same Night, Vampire Priest and some goths show up at the church. They open the door, and light floods out, and Vampire Priest recoils and starts to bleed from the eyes. He says, “I've looked at lots of crosses, and they never did this to me!” (partially paraphrased). The goths stand around waiting for direction. Huh, well, Vampire Priest, I bet you never gazed on a cross made with LOVE did you! Well? Answer the question, Vampire Priest!

And cut to, everyone lighting candles and filling the place with crosses. And father Joe is in full priest regalia. And everyone is happy, and the music swells. And I guess the goths all ran away or something? I mean, they were just there!

Father Joe starts giving mass, and bodies in some other room are all waking up and growling. Are these the bodies that were in the church before, coming to life as vampires? I guess I thought Father Joe and Company would have buried them? And I thought the vampires didn't want all their victims coming back as vampires? Or are these zombies, cause someone forgot what kind of movie they were making? (“Okay, cue the zombies, because I say so!” Who wrote this, Master Shake?)

Maybe they're just dead people who want to go to church again, I don't know. By the way, the mass is well done, I mean it's really convincing and Father Joe seems to be genuinely faithful.

So, goths or the bodies we just saw or someone crashes into the church while the mass is going on, and all the good guys point guns at them, but no one shoots the bad guys. And the bad guys disarm the good guys. And the bad guys throw down the cross. Hey good guys, did you not have some kind of plan? Father Joe shouts out the last bit of the mass. And we get shots of the re-animated bodies rawring and stuff. And then the vampire Priest shows up, with his goth pal. Ooo! We get a lot of Night Of The Living Dead type snarling among the dead, or the vampires or whoever these folks are. I mean they just showed up!

Did I mention Vampire Priest is a really terrible actor? Well, he is. Without the echo-y voice, he really, really sucks. And not in the vampire sense, though I guess he does that too. Anyway, he and Father Joe are having some kind of argument that really means nothing. Father Joe is all like, you're just bad, and Vampire Priest is like, no, we're all bad inside. You know the drill, I'm sure. Anyway, Vampire Priest is going to turn Father Joe into a vamp. God, what a terrible actor!

I think I know where this is going. Father Joe wants to continue the mass, Vampire Priest says it's pointless, some goth grabs the cup of wine and says “I've always wanted to drink the blood of a diety!” And I know where it's going. You do too, don't you? Sure you do. I knew you would.

Yeah, the goth guy drinks the wine, turns into an okay makeup effect and disintegrates. And all the goths and vamps and Vampire Priest all leave, cos there's this bright pulsating light and all. And goth guy's skull melts into foam. And everyone is like, Whoa. And Gwen is going to say something about this...cos, you know, she's a radical atheist and all.

“It's all true! It was all, always true!”

Well, how about that! I guess if you can melt some vampires at the next Revival, you'll have all the local sinners lining up to go to church! Well, some goths run back in and capture people, and Carl and Goth Chick's Sister throw down their guns and run away. This is important because earlier, Carl said, “I won't let you down this time, Father Joe!” and now, see, he is. Letting Father Joe down. You rotter, Carl!

Goth chick and her pals show up and talk to Sister, and it's...Poseur Time. You know the damn drill. End movie, end. My charity has limits.

Father Joe's beating the crap out of the goths. And apparently Goth Chick and Sister aren't related, they were lesbian lovers. Not that it matters.

And Father Joe is brought down. And he wakes up to see Vampire Priest acting bad again. Father Joe is to be sacrificed, blah, blah, blah, and he's to join the vamps, and Gwen is to be killed, blah, blah, blah. Vampire Priest ignores the fact that Goth Guy disintegrated (meaning either that Father Joe transubstantiated the wine into Christ's blood, or goths are way allergic to wine), which would seem to indicate that there IS a God and Vampire Priest is all wrong about everything and is so totally going to Hell eventually, but whatever.

And a bunch of big guys show up and start killing vampires! I mean, the main guys are big fat farm types. Sister beats the crap out of the vamps, and Carl shows up, he was the instigator of all this! I'm sorry I called you a rotter, Carl, you're actually OK! Vampire Priest doesn't seem to notice the hubbub and tumult until he gets a cross in his face, then he runs away. And I think Sister kills Goth Chick. But then the vampires get the upper hand, somehow, and the little girl from earlier kills Carl. She's a vampire now! By the way, I was wrong, Goth Chick is still around. I think she escapes for the sequel. (Damn, that's depressing to type.)

Vampire Priest captures Gwen, and offers to trade her for Father Joe. But it's pretty damned obvious that Vampire Priest is gonna kill them both, and Father Joe's moral sense is gonna doom them both! The suspense! Hello, I said “the suspense”! CUE!

Well, Sister pulls the cloth off the altar, and there is a flood of light in the church. Vampire Priest and Gwen fall, there's a shot of some kinda stake which they both fall on, and Gwen coughs up blood to show both she and Vampire Priest bit the big one. I mean, died. They bit the big one earlier with other stuff, but now I'm just looking for something different to type.

Gwen, with her dying breath, tells Father Joe that she guesses he won all those arguments after all. And she makes him promise to keep fighting. And he says the last rites over her. Father Joe does the priestly stuff well, so this bit works.

Cue: the rednecks celebrating. I guess they got back the upper hand after all. Sister is still in the church, and I bet Goth Chick is gonna show up. Actually, it's Father Joe. They chatter a bit. “We've reclaimed a tiny piece of the planet, a toehold.” “It's a victory, we haven't had one until now.” “Maybe it'll be the spark, maybe [there'll be a sequel].” “And then?” “I don't know, to be honest, I didn't think I'd live through tonight.”

And he's gonna get another priest to help, and we find out Sister's name is Mickey, and she asks if she can come along with him. And he says, “Call me Joe,” and roll credits.

Julia Cornish gets a special credit for her gowns, was she goth chick? [I guess so, her character name was “Raven.” Thank goodness for credits or we wouldn't know most of these character names.]

And director/co-writer Tony Mandile gets a credit for make-up effects. And he played someone named “Finnegan”! Don't remember who that was, but gosh this guy is multi-talented! Co-writer, source and Big Name F. Paul Wilson played “Noah Randall” and I don't remember that role either.

Lots of places in New Jersey thanked. No, I will not take a cheap shot here. New Jersey is a fine state, they just need to be careful about who they are Special Thanked by.

Now, George thanks people. And Greg thanks people. He notes that his (thanked) grandparents would have hated this movie. And now Tony thanks people. Tony, as noted, was director, co-writer, makeup effects and actor, not sure who Greg and George were. [Greg is a producer.]

Oh, gosh, there's a “making of.” And I wish I hadn't watched it. Because it makes all this so hard.

See, everyone (F.Paul Wilson, Tony the director, and the actors who played Father Joe, Gwen and Vampire Priest) is so sincere and so convinced they're making a great film here. I guess that's a good lesson about being really close to a project, so close you can't look with any objectivity. The actors all come across as far more likable than their characters. What a shame. I feel bad for not liking what they came up with, they tried so hard.

Cos what they came up is, with a few notable exceptions, pretty damn bad. I'm sorry I didn't like it more. I feel guilty now. Bless me, Father, for I have sinned....