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.
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.
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.
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
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”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Anyway, our Heroine gives us a full spectrum of
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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,
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
naked chick's sister has her Oscar Clip moment, when she talks about
how she always thought vampires were sexy, Anne Rice types.
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
I just thought that would have been a nice Trailer
talks, but it's kind of easy to ignore her. She's worried about the
goths. Ooh, nice place to put your sympathies.
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!”
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!
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?)
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.
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!
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
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.
all true! It was all, always true!”
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
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
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.
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.
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.)
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.]
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
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
gosh, there's a “making of.” And I wish I hadn't watched
it. Because it makes all this so hard.
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....