Minutes to Midnight
Written by Victoria Dadi and Christopher M. Don
Directed by Christopher Douglas Olen Ray
This messy slasher flick is set on New Year’s Eve, which explains the title. It also explains why a bunch of work friends are in a remote ski lodge, gettin’ drunk and frisky (their boss, who we see from time to time during the movie, gave them the keys to the place). After attacking some hikers, some masked wackos zero in on the gang at the lodge. Meanwhile, a guy who’s been looking for his missing brother hooks up with the local sheriff to find out what happened to a ranger who seems to have disappeared; they stumble on a disgusting hovel where, it seems, the wackos hang out when they’re not murdering people.
The director, billed here as Christopher Douglas Olen Rey, is the son of the incredibly prolific Fred Olen Ray, whose dozens of movies range in quality from “it’s surprising what a talented director can do with a tiny budget” to “well, this has been a real embarrassment.” On the Fred Olen Ray scale, Minutes to Midnight sits roughly in the middle: it’s okay, but it could have been better.
For a while, in the middle of the movie, it feels like the director wasn’t sure whether he was making slasher or soft-porn: he seems to avoid showing any real violence, while he lingers on the nudity of two of his female stars (in scenes which, technically speaking, are not required to tell the film’s story). Other times, the movie goes into full-on slasher mode, but the editing (and, in one scene, the lighting) is so disjointed that it’s hard to see what’s going on. Which I can imagine would be disappointing to most fans of full-on slasher flicks.
The movie has some recognizable faces. William Baldwin, Christopher Judge (from Stargate SG-1), and Richard Grieco (who shot to fame on TV’s 21 Jump Street and shot right back to obscurity shortly thereafter) star, in no particular order, as the sheriff, the ranger, and the boss who gave the friends the keys to the lodge. I’m not telling you who plays which character because – and this is a major problem with the movie – what’s supposed to be a Big Reveal at the end of the film is actually a Big We Saw This Coming a Mile Away. Seriously: you don’t give this actor this role and expect the audience not to see what’s going to happen.
There are some things about the movie that work well. The production design is good (the disgusting hovel is very well done), most of the acting is solid, and there are a couple of genuine surprises (of the “boo!” variety). And the final scenes, wherein the wackos and the rest of the cast – minus those who aren’t already dead – do battle in the disgusting hovel, deliver the slasher-film goods: they’re bloody, gory, and edited for maximum effect. If the rest of the movie had been as well executed as its final scenes, we’d have had a real winner on our hands. Oh, well. Maybe next time.