Short But Oh So Sweet: Darren Gaskell Reviews “Midnight” (2019)


Review by Darren Gaskell

Single pensioner Eddie (played by Ian Recordon) is woken up by strange noises in his home and as he investigates, the distressing history of the place begins to reveal itself to him. However, everything is not quite what it seems…

The latest short from writer/director Katie Bonham reinforces her particular brand of horror – that is, everyday situations given a strange, supernatural slant. If you’ve read my reviews of Katie’s previous work you’ll know that I’m a fan. 2016’s Mindless and 2017’s Mab are both excellent and you should seek them out.

So, after Mindless and Mab we’re back in M-territory once more with Midnight. Is it marvellous, middling or mundane? More to the point, how do I give nothing away about an eight-minute short other than the brief plot summary in the first paragraph? I say this because Midnight benefits from discovering its twists and turns without having any of them spoiled in advance.

There you go. Watch Midnight. The End. Thanks for reading this review.

Okay, I’m not going to cop out like that but once you’ve seen this you’ll appreciate why I can disclose virtually nothing. With that in mind, allow me to digress slightly and ask what you’d do if you didn’t have much cash to splash. Stay in, maybe? Hope there’s something good on the telly or scour the depths of the streaming services if your subscription hasn’t run out? Something like that?

Well, when Katie Bonham doesn’t have much money, she makes a short film. In one location. In one day. As, ahem, any of us would do. Knowing this, you’d expect Midnight to be limited in terms of set-ups and characters, right? Not true. This is an ambitious, pleasingly knotty little ghost story and was never likely to be a straightforward take on things that go bump in the night.

Early on, you’ll probably have a few questions on your mind. Who? What? How? Don’t worry, the answers will come to you but maybe not in the order you expected, due to Midnight’s tricky narrative structure which will have you working out what happened where and when. It’s like a grim, stripped-down, urban version of Cluedo.

As with her previous shorts, Bonham demonstrates her skill in drawing unfussy, naturalistic performances from her actors and the most devastating moments are often the quietest ones, although there’s an especially horrible moment here that’s an effective contrast to the more subtle and unsettling tone elsewhere. Sound plays a key role too but again I’m going to be frustratingly elusive in terms of detail.

The running time zips by and yet there’s an unhurried, confident pace to Midnight. Its steady reveals are a joy and the limited resources available to make the film have, to my mind, only served to emphasise the piece’s strength and craft. The fact there are no flashy visual effects or elaborate gore set-pieces grounds the narrative and unnerves the viewer in a far more subtle way.

In short (excuse the pun), Midnight continues Katie Bonham’s run of unmissable mini masterworks. You’ll want to see it, then you’ll want to see it again to see what you missed the first time around.

Rating: 5 / 5

About celluloiddeej

Film fan, horror festival goer, karaoke enthusiast, cat whisperer, world traveller, complete idiot. Happy to chat with you on your podcast/whatever if you can stand the Yorkshire accent.

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