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Capsule review: Midnight Movies: From The Margins To The Mainstream

Midnight Movies: From The Margins To The Mainstream is a documentary on cult cinema, specifically that which found its audience in the midnight timeslot of American cinemas. The Canadian funded film is directed by filmmaker Stuart Samuels, who has previously worked on the television documentary Cartier: Jewelers to the King and Visions of Light, and a praised documentary on cinematography. The subject of Midnight Movies is certain to peak the interests of any film geek. As Samuels is obviously a film geek himself, it should make sense for him to tackle this strand of cult cinema but instead it proves to be a problem.

The film explains the decisions made by cinema owners, and by the cinemagoers, of certain cities that turned the midnight session into a thriving environment for controversial cinema. With this basis, Samuel recounts the success of six midnight films, Night of the Living Dead, El Tropo, The Harder They Come, Pink Flamingos, Eraserhead and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Due a subject matter that would conceivably lack archival footage, Samuels relies on talking heads recounting their own experience with midnight movies. Samuels attempts to dress the film up with montages of posters feels forced and draws attention to the lack of material.

The success of midnight movies is a fascinating as one can easily imagine that those who lined up weeks in a row to see midnight movies aren’t all that different to those continually reading and writing about cinema on the internet now. Unfortunately, the film seems to be missing a deeper analysis of the phenomenon. Samuels fails to examine how midnight movies changed the production of certain genres, and only hints at the films’ success lasting impact. What Midnight Movies provides is simply trivia, and while it is trivia that the cult of cinema would lap up it limits the film from realizing the subject’s full potential.

2.5 Stars

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