Minutes to Midnight is a bad movie, full of unlikeable characters but actually, that’s kind of the point.
Directed by Christopher Ray and starring William Baldwin, Bill Moseley, and Christopher Judge, this is the story of seven “friends” and a backpacker looking for his missing brother who run afoul of a trio of ne’er-do-wells by the names of Angus, Calypso and Gimple who have a thriving sideline in disembodied body part decorations and arterial blood finger-painting.
Before we move into the things this film does right, we need to take a look at the many, many things it does wrong. As stated above, the characters are mostly thoroughly unlikeable. Mr Walters (William Baldwin) is greasy and creepy as he not-too-subtly attempts to flirt with his employees; Kyle (Phillip Andre Botello) is an abrasive jerk with a short fuse; Richie (Jared Cohn) is a drunk slacker, and the other characters are varying degrees of millennial stereotypes dialled to eleven.
The dialogue is trite and somewhat silly in most places, with characters making some seriously questionable decisions. The first spoken lines we get are:
Emily – “We shouldn’t be here. This is where those people were murdered.”
Charlie – “That is true, Emily.”
Emily – “Those boys? They were just kids. They murdered the resort employees. Here. And the cops never caught them.”
Charlie – “Those are just stories.”
Yet the character of Charlie thought that THE MURDER FOREST was the perfect place to take his girlfriend to propose to her? Spoilers: it ends badly.
And wait, didn’t you just say that the murders actually happened, but then tried to say they were just stories? Somebody needs to get their facts straight and it’s not clear if it’s the script writer or the character.
Moving on, the rest of the characters are underdeveloped, the motivations of our villains only explained in the closing moments of the film, and the ending – oh the ending! There is no resolution to this story, no actual ending, it just stops. It just abruptly cuts to credits mid-scene with no sense of closure. Did they run out of budget or time to shoot a proper ending? Did someone suddenly swear or trip over something and they couldn’t afford to do a re-shoot?
The camera work is also particularly terrible in a few scenes. There is a fine line between “shaky cam” and “vomit cam”. Scenes of characters being chased through the woods are rendered into an incomprehensibly blurred mess as the camera shakes wildly about like someone dropped it into a tumble dryer. It adds nothing to the scene except complete confusion.
So these are all the things that Minutes to Midnight does badly, but are there any things it does well? Well, actually yes. Shaky-cam aside it’s quite well shot, you always know where folks are in relation to each other and the story is easy enough to follow. There are lovely practical gore effects, some beautiful prop designs, very good make-up work, and the motivations of the antagonists actually make a surprising amount of sense. The final reveal, as late as it is, does explain why they have a thing for carving up the young folk and goes a way to explaining why our main cast is so unlikeable. It’s a little like the reveal from Cabin in the Woods, these characters were actually picked for a reason, so kudos to the writers! Their reasoning certainly makes far more sense than the lacklustre reveal in Hangman.
As stated at the beginning, Minutes to Midnight is a bad movie, but not a terrible one. The designs for Calypso and Angus are interesting, the story moves along fairly briskly with not too much in the way of pointless padding, but it’s still a difficult one to recommend. Even Christopher Judge being in it is not enough to save it as, sadly, he has barely any screen time. Something to watch with friends, something to have on in the background, but not something you would need to rush out and buy.