These days, the horror genre is polluted with big-budget studio productions that boast cut-and-paste storytelling, bland characters and cheap, predictable jump scares. So when word reaches us of an independent production, this horror fan’s ears always perk up with the potential of witnessing the next breakout horror film or franchise. However, that is most certainly not the case with Minutes to Midnight, directed by Christopher Ray (son of the legendary low budget king Fred Olen Ray).
The story follows seven extremely two-dimensional and irritating friends who spend New Year’s Eve in a house in the middle of nowhere - a concept that is entirely unoriginal. As the clock reaches ever closer to midnight, strange masked figures start attacking the friends in gruesome fashion and our lead character Sophia (Sara Fletcher) must band together with love interest Michael (Bryce Draper) and hiker Travis Cenna (former WWE Superstar John Hennigan) to battle the attackers and find what drives them to commit these murders.
Even from watching the trailer, one could predict that this wasn’t going to be anything special. The lighting direction seems amiss, leading to very little tension. The dialogue between ‘characters’ is some of the worst we’ve heard and is delivered in such a wooden fashion that one would presume they’ve been randomly plucked off the street and given $50 to star in a movie. Accompany that with the most awkward and forced sex scene since Tommy Wiseau’s The Room and you aren’t going to be accomplishing much.
The list of negatives continues, as even though William Baldwin and Richard Grieco star in this film, their experience cannot save it from being a flop. They both looked extremely bored and most certainly were there for a paycheck. Along with that, the ‘big’ twist that was revealed in the final act was also highly predictable which left an even more sour taste in the mouth. Blatantly influenced by horror classics such as Friday the 13th and The Strangers, it is incredibly misguided and misses the mark entirely. For a start, those classic films use sound and score to their advantage - the score of this film sounds like it was ripped from YouTube’s royalty-free library and is woefully misplaced at key scenes, where a different piece could’ve helped save this sinking ship.
The only sliver of praise we can give Minutes to Midnight is one scene, in particular, which used intermittent lighting to a rather dramatic effect with competent practical effects to accompany it. That, and the fact that John Hennigan was able to use his pro-wrestling experience to make his fight scenes look the most realistic, although we’re disappointed that he didn’t get to superkick any of the masked killers in the face.
That one interesting scene along with the fact that the film has a coherent beginning, middle, and end, is the only reason that this atrocity gets a lucky rating of two out of ten.
MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: CHRISTOPHER OLEN-RAY / SCREENPLAY: VICTORIA DADI, CHRISTOPHER M. DON / STARRING: SARA FLETCHER, BRYCE DRAPER, WILLIAM BALDWIN, BILL MOSELEY, VIVA BIANCA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (US), TBC (UK)