What is the Midnight Monster Show?

It’s a blog about horror films, with an emphasis on the classics.

I used to go to a news site called Digg.  It’s news, if by news you mean pictures of kittens, Top X lists or articles about Ron Paul: Savior of the Universe.  For about two months it proved a fun time killer.  Someone had posted a link to an article that listed something like “The Baddest Bad Guys in Movies- Ever.”  I pointed out that the list was silly as it omitted Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price, Lionel Atwill but included the likes of Denzel Washington and Neal McDonough.   The list should have been titled something like “Here is a List of Actors Who Have On Occasion Played Bad Guys.”

This is where the discussion began.  Now, as people who know me will testify, I am a veritable font of optimism, believing in the essential goodness of mankind.  Okay, that is totally wrong.  People who know me will tell you that I am a bit of a curmudgeon and tend to expect the worst of people.  Even I was a bit surprised when some helpful user responded with his own opinion that since the actors I cited were in old black and white movies, they were irrelevant, that nobody outside of “artsy elitist faggy film school movie snobs” cared about those old films.  From there, he got decidedly more personal and unpleasant in his remarks.  I realized that I was in danger of falling into a terrible trap.  A trap worse than the trap the Empire set for Admiral Akbar and the rebel fleet in Return of the Jedi. Que Akbar.

“It’s a trap!”

I had nearly fallen into the classic internet quagmire of taking a troll’s remarks personally and responding in kind.  I decided not to respond.  I stopped going to Digg all together.

Trolling aside, it dawned on me that many people honestly avoided old films and had never actually seen Lugosi as Dracula or Karloff as The Monster.  The idea that people were screwing themselves out of some of the greatest movie experiences ever simply because these films were not recent Hollywood releases sort of got under my skin. Even worse, what if people were missing out simply because they had no idea these movies were even out there?

I loved the classic horror films as a child.  The local independent channels (back when there were local independent channels) played these films, making them accessible to new generations.  Many channels packaged the classic films of Universal and Hammer, along with a range schlocky B movies, into hosted late night horror shows such as The Vampira Show, Fright Night with Grimsley and Creature Features.

Bob Wilkins

Creature Features with host Bob Wilkins, for the time we lived in Sacramento, was my Saturday night.  His conversational presentation and dry wit appealed to me.  He would make light of the movies he was showing, especially if the warranted it.  He would often say, “Don’t stay up late.  It’s not worth it.”  That would hardly dissuade me.  He could also dish out the film trivia, often with guests such as Christopher Lee, Forrest J Ackerman, Ray Harryhausen and the like.  A several months before writing this, I learned that Bob had recently passed on.  This is one of the very few times that a celebrity death shook me up.  He was a happy memory from my childhood. It is his memory as much as anything else that compelled me to make the Midnight Monster Show.

I play Urban Dead, a fun little online zombie apocalypse game, in which I and my fellow horde members bust down barricades and devour the cowering survivors (a.k.a. harmanz) inside.  On my horde’s forum we sometimes discuss horror films and post our little reviews.    I found that I rather enjoyed writing reviews, so I started the Midnight Monster Show as a place to post my reviews and  revel in my enjoyment of great horror films, the classics and the latest releases.

Who is Captain Midnight?

I’ve been using that pen name to write movie reviews, off and on, for nearly ten years.  It sounds cool.  I also use it more or less in tribute to John R. MacDougall, who in 1986 also used the Captain Midnight name when he jammed HBO’s signal for four minutes and change, replacing it with the message:

$12.95/MONTH  ?

He had to pay a fine of $5000.00 and spend a year on probation for that little stunt.  Nowadays they’d  clobber him using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and Patriot Act to make sure he did hard time and never saw the light of day again.

What is with the Vincent Price heads at the bottom of the reviews?

Vincent Price is god.  The more Vincents, the better the movie.  The scale is  zero to five Vincents.

Do you plan to review every horror movie ever made?
No.  I don’t plan to review slasher films like Halloween or Friday the 13th. Why?  I don’t get into them all that much.  They’re kind of a one trick pony.  Yes, I agree that some are better than others.  Yes, I agree that they are not the same thing as gorenography.  It’s just a matter of personal taste.

I used to enjoy them as a teen, which was back in the heyday of the slasher films (1980’s), though I didn’t like them as much as the other kids my age.  They saw them as horror films were I saw them as black comedies.

I will not be doing gorenography, or exploitation films because they are not horror.  They are nauseating and I don’t like them.  Throughout my career in real life, I have met the sort people who do the things that are depicted in those kinds of movies.

I also plan to keep Troma Films off the menu.  Why? Well, let me ask you this, what makes a good Troma film?  How can you tell a good Troma film from a bad one?  Exactly.  I dunno.  They borrow a bit from the exploitation genre but also have comedy, horror and at times musical elements — all with a little T & A thrown in.  I very much enjoyed Troma films as a teen, but not so much now that I’m older.   Troma films are kind of in a category all by themselves, they have to be viewed in that context.  If because you live under a rock, or more likely have good taste and so have never heard of  Troma or their movies, check them out.

How Does Your Ratings System Work?
Every movie is rated on a scale of zero to five Vincents. Using Vincent Price as a system of measurement is not a very original system is it?  It beats stars or whatnot.   It’s also totally arbitrary and capricious, like any ratings system. Here is a sort of rough guide:

Zero Vincents: I hated the movie. It’s horribly flawed and not at all entertaining.

One Vincent: The movie is flawed or not as entertaining as it should be, but has some redeeming value.

Two Vincents: It’s a flawed movie, but makes up for it by being entertaining, novel or having some other redeeming value.

Three Vincents: A competently made, entertaining film, worthy of adding to your collection.

Four Vincents: These are films I really liked. They are well made and highly entertaining.

Five Vincents: Films of this caliber are rare. They are the films that are perfect or nearly so.

As you can see, a movie with as few as two stars is still recommended, though tempered.   It might be argued that I am reluctant to plunge the stake into the heart of lesser films.  That’s true enough,  I suppose,  particularly when my reviews are compared to those of the other “critics.”  Any movie that is entertaining is, to my way of thinking, at least worth a look, no matter how technically bad.  My Vincent scale shouldn’t be construed as a bad to good continuum, but as a continuum that goes from  awesomely great (five Vincents) to fairly entertaining and watchable (one Vincent), then drops off suddenly like the cliff face from a Road Runner cartoon (no Vincents) into a realm of unwatchable badness.

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