You Have to See This! The Midnight Hour (1985)

Only in 1985 could a movie like “The Midnight Hour” have been created. This is the decade of Michael Jackson and music videos. This is the decade of MTV. This is the decade where one of the goofiest Halloween movies ever made has a musical number that breaks the fourth wall because… well, Michael Jackson, and Madonna! Duh. Seriously, it’s a shame that “The Midnight Hour” has been so hard to find and out of print for such a long time, because it’s such a ridiculous eighties gem that I figured people would be watching it during Halloween parties and laughing their asses off.

It is simply one of the most eighties movies ever made. This movie is like Quincy Jones, Dick Clark, MTV, and the kids from “Fame” got together to create this weird, often ridiculous monstrosity that is very much a TV movie, but is so menacing, I’m shocked any TV network would play this during primetime. While it’s not entirely a violent movie, it’s also very menacing, even when it’s comical. If I’d seen this movie as a child I definitely would have been up all night scared shitless.

I had a weak constitution for certain horror movies, even though I loved horror. I digress. “The Midnight Hour” is just such an eighties blast with its entire premise set on Halloween, featuring a cast of notable eighties stars, all with a villain invoked by the classic trope of a ill read ancient parchment. No matter how much fun you think it is, don’t read from an ancient scroll or book of any kind, please.

The cast is just a who’s who of eighties stars from Levar Burton, Shari Belafonte, Dedee Pfeiffer, Peter DeLuise, Dick Van Patten, Jonelle Allen, Kurtwood Smith, and there’s even a very young Macaulay Culkin, for good measure.

“The Midnight Hour” is a horror movie, a comedy movie, a musical, a Halloween movie, and even an inter-generational romance, if you can believe it. All of which is topped off by an excellent soundtrack by folks like Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs, Wilson Pickett, Three Dog Night, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and The Guess Who, just to name a few.

Set on Halloween night in Pitchford New England, we meet a group of friends who decide to tour a local museum for kicks and learn about the legend of an ancient witch who cursed Pitchford. For fun they steal old artifacts from the attraction including an ancient parchment, and decide to go to the grave of the witch Lucinda Cavender and recite and enchantment. Friend Melissa, as played by Shari Belafonte, is a practicing sorceress who accidentally invokes Lucinda, and unleashes the curse on the town once again.

Before long everyone in town begins experiencing their own horrific confrontations with various monsters including zombies, vampires, werewolves, and ghosts, and no one is being spared. Oddly enough, the monsters are all being drawn to friend Vinnie’s (LeVar Burton) big Halloween bash that he’s throwing at his house, including Lucinda who is seeking out Melissa. Melissa happens to be her great-great-great-great-granddaughter, and is hell bent on turning her in to one of the undead to help utilize her powers.

Without any of the group realizing monsters are crashing the party, with zombies literally making out on the couch, and there’s even a demonic dwarf somewhere. But Lucinda begins knocking off the friends to build her army, sucking their blood. All the while protagonist Phil is wise enough to leave the party early and meets young Sandy, a gorgeous blond girl dressed as a fifties sock hopper. The two form a passionate romance that is immediately interrupted by the havoc that is ensuing around town, including the party where Phil’s friends are being turned in to the undead.

Before long Phil discovers Sandy is one of the undead, but a good spirit and she teams up with Phil to collect the necessary artifacts to stop Lucinda and bring her back to her grave once and for all. A lot of the twists in the movie are often too convenient to be taken seriously, but the chemistry between Jonna Lee as Sandy and Lee Montgomery as Phil is entertaining, especially the way Lee is capable of portraying the dream girl who is also quite heroic until the very end.

Director Bender is very good about featuring as many monsters as possible, deriving some really good menace and suggestive violence that skirts the edge of what a TV movie is capable of. In the big scene where Lucinda bites Melissa, there’s a close up of red wine pouring on the ground set to “How Soon is Now?” While most eighties movies can safely age in to modern times, and some are appreciated for being so dated, “The Midnight Hour” is almost an endurance test for how much eighties camp you’re willing to put up with. There are the insanely goofy death scenes, some hokey moments intended to be taken as a scare (vampire dentist! Run!), and of course the big dance number.

For reasons I can’t possibly fathom, “The Midnight Hour” breaks the fourth wall and an undead Shari Belafonte leads the party guests of monsters and humans in a choreographed dance number I’m sure was wholly intended to mimic the appeal of “Thriller.” The sequence where Belafonte sings the painfully goofy dance song “Get Dead” is way too long, way too ridiculous, but you might find a tinge of entertainment value by seeing Dedee Pfeiffer struggle to keep up with the rest of the dancers. Truthfully there isn’t much of a reason why the monsters are drifting to this Halloween party, but again, it’s the eighties, so that’s about all of the explanation we get, and all we need.

“The Midnight Hour” is often maligned by horror geeks, but it’s a decent bit of junk food for Halloween, if you want to escape in eighties nonsense for ninety minutes. Considering there’s almost no blood shed, it’s very menacing, and pretty intense for a movie run on ABC primetime. I’m still pretty surprised a movie like this ever aired on television, as it’s suited more for direct to video fodder, at least. Especially when you consider how it ends on a very down beat note.

“The Midnight Hour” is one of many TV movies that would air in the future teaming up a bunch of sitcom and primetime drama stars, but this is probably one of the most memorable. It’s one of those best worst movies, right up there with “Troll 2,” “The Room,” and “Howard the Duck.”

  • Watched when it was new, watched again last year. It is very, very 80s. And that is not a bad thing. Happy Halloween!