Good grief, The Midnight Man is one frustrating film. It stars two stalwarts of the horror movie scene (Lin Shaye and Robert Englund), is well-made with some classy sets and good staging, features an eye-catching monster, and appears to be trying to put a new spin on a tired Creepypasta trope (the website even gets a namecheck at one point).
But then it doesn't do anything clever with it, and what it does do is wildly inconsistent (for example, the monster is supposed to kill people by using their worst fears and darkest secrets against them, so clearly one of the characters' greatest fear is being punched through the head by a demon!)
The Midnight Man opens in 1953 with three children coming to the end of a terrifying session of "the midnight game", where they've summoned the murderous Midnight Man (Kyle Strauts) into their home.
Only one child survives and we jump to the present day when Anna Luster (Lin Shaye) is now an obstreperous old woman suffering from dementia, still living in her family home, and being card for by her granddaughter, Alex (Gabrielle Haugh).
One night, while looking for her gran's precious hand-mirror in the attic, Alex and friend, Miles (Grayson Gabriel), stumble across a box with all the fixings for the 'midnight game' (but only half the rules).
Granny Luster comes upon them and freaks out, so Alex has to call in Doctor Harding (Robert Englund), who we later discover has a childhood connection with Anna.
With her grandmother tucked up in bed, Alex and Miles (who obviously can't think of anything better to do!), decide to start playing the 'midnight game'... and soon find themselves trapped inside the house with the killer demon!
Clearly, writer/director Travis Zariwny was hoping to get a franchise out of The Midnight Man. The creature has a quite unique, and memorable, look and a gravelly voice that delivers lines we usually associate with Hellraiser's cenobites.
But for all the film's strong points, the script lets it down constantly when it comes to how the demon deals with its prey. For instance, we learn that Alex's greatest fear - not a mild dislike, but greatest fear - is blood, but earlier she showed no reservations about pricking her own finger (with a dirty needle, mind you) and putting a bloody finger print on the game's "entry sheet".
Then you have this game that is supposedly bound by strict rules (even though the Midnight Man cheats) about how to start it and what to do during the game, but then suddenly it's okay for someone - Miles's schoolfriend Kelly (Emily Haine) - to just wander in and sign up.
I think there was supposed to be some dark message about survivors of the game becoming the demon's servants, and bringing him fresh meat, but this isn't really clear (or maybe I was reading too much into it).
Clearly, this is aping the storyline of such urban myths as Bloody Mary, Candyman, and even Slender Man, but whereas those, at least, pay some lip service as to why people get involved with them, The Midnight Man gives its characters a quite involved game, with multiple rules and restrictions, but absolutely no reason to play in the first place.
He also lacks the rich backstory of those other urban myths, he's simply a killing machine. So why would you invite him in in the first place?
The game begins at midnight and the players have to avoid the demon until 3.33am to escape.
But there's no reward for doing this, no magical wish granted.
It turns out the best way to avoid falling into the clutches of The Midnight Man is not to start playing his game.
If you don't play, you'll be just as well off as someone who plays and survives, and probably less traumatised.
And your levels of frustration will be lower if you don't bother with this film.
The annoying thing is, I love the creature design and would welcome encountering it again, under better circumstances. I'd simply prefer it was employed in a more coherent storyline.
THE DEMON OF MIDNIGHT
Once summoned, this cunning 8ft tall, gaunt, cloaked demon exists in our reality only between the hours of midnight and 3.33am.
He is renowned for using people's fears against them as his preferred method of killing. While by no means a cowardly demon, he likes to separate his prey and attack them individually as then he can take his time to dine on their tasty nightmares.
The Demon Of Midnight is a harvester of souls for the underworld, targeting those too wilful to await their allotted hour, who enjoys the hunt.
AC: 0 
Atk: 2 x claws (1d10)
MV: 18 (special)
- DEMONIC IMMUNITIES: The Midnight Man has 75 per cent magic resistance and is immune to attacks from non-magical weapons.
- GASEOUS FORM: At will he can transform into a gaseous form that is able to dematerialise and reappear anywhere within 600 yards.
- LIMITED INVISIBILITY: Up to five times per manifestation, The Midnight Man can make himself invisible. However, he is still visible in mirrors and if he steps within 10ft of flame (e.g. a torch or a candle), it will flicker out. He turns also visible as soon as he attacks.
- SALT: He cannot enter a ring of salt, or directly attack (physically or magically) anyone within one, but he is smart enough to use the environment to try and break the circle of protection if feasible.
- FEAR ATTACK: If he can get a target on their own, he can psychically project into their mind visions of their worst fears and deepest, darkest secrets, with the aim of driving them to take their own life. The target must make a WIS save every round or lose 1d3 SAN per attack. While under this attack, the victim is unable to take any other action (except resist) unless they roll a natural '20' on their save, meaning they break free and are able to act.
FILMS WATCHED: 36
NEW TO ME: 27