Portmanteau-a-go-go #26 – Minutes Past Midnight

This 2016 portmanteau follows that curious modern trend of having lots of stories.  At nine stories deep, Minutes Past Midnight is one of the more packed ones that we’ve covered.  At 1hr 39, it’s not too long though and the stories come thick and fast.  Especially the film’s opener.

Never Tear Us Apart

Eschewing any kind of linking story, Minutes Past Midnight goes right into this story which actually spans the opening credits.  Prior to the credits we see a man tied to a chair, bloodied and beaten.  We then see him dispatched with a spike before the titles roll.

After the credits we meet two friends who are making their way through the woods in order to meet one the friend’s grandparents.  On reaching the house they witness some good old redneck rampaging murder from the grandmother (the victim being the one we saw before the opening titles) and a chase ensues.

This story may be short but it is very much to the point and features one of the most spectacular deaths we’ve ever seen in a horror anthology.  As effective as this is, there’s also a little bit of comedy to this section too.

A very strong start.

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This unpleasant tale is about a couple and their young son.  Stitches on his head indicate that the son has had some sort of medical issue and now it transpires that he can’t sleep.

The story follows him as beats a dog to death and then goes blind and it all resolves when his parents attempt to help him.

Unpleasant we can handle but the story doesn’t have enough time to really establish the characters and nothing is ever explained which ultimately makes this story a dud.

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Crazy For You

After the bleak story that preceeded it, Crazy For You ended up being a real surprise.  Eschewing the American setting of the first two tales, this one plays out like a good, old-fashioned London rom-com.

Played for laughs and deliberately overacted, this story follows a serial killer who falls for a girl.  He’s trying to be a better man but is unable to control his murderous urges and this all plays out to an interesting conclusion.

This segment is oddly charming and its contrast to the previous section really highlights its strengths.  A good story overall.

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The Mill at Calder’s End

Two American stories and one English one in and suddenly we get a tale that is a mix of gothic puppetry and artsy CGI.  We saw this sort of stylistic change with XX‘s linking story but this is a bit more interesting.

It’s a folksy tale about a gentleman who inherits a house that comes with a family curse and it certainly conveys a Lovecraftian sense of suspense and horror but the effect is certainly tempered by the visuals.  They take the sting out of the tale and in the end it’s a little more pretentious than scary.  It looks good though and adds a little class to the movie.  Something that the next tale is quick to undo.

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Roid Rage

This low budget short is something else entirely.  It tells the story of a man who has a killer haemerroid in his arse that feeds on anyone stupid enough to get close enough to it.

It’s played entirely for cheap laughs and it almost works despite the mixed effects (some are deliberately cheap to give this a more homemade feel) and unpleasant characters.  It reminded me of a cross between Basket Case and Kevin Smith’s segment in Holidays, both of which aren’t exactly fun to watch.  However, Roid Rage goes all out, ending with a fake grindhouse trailer for a longer version of the movie, and in the end I felt like a guilty idiot for having been entertained.

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As a collection, Minutes Past Midnight was starting to lose me but the next tale, Feeder, won me back.  A guitarist moves into a dive apartment block and sets up his equipment in an effort to write some new tunes.

After struggling, the unlikeable fellow notices a scratched-in image of a rat on the wooden floor and then sees a rat go to the spot and seemingly get devoured by the floor itself.  He then hears music which he records, gaining the appreciation of his agent.  What follows is an interesting tale as he begins to realise the price for this inspiration.

This tale really lands well and keeps you guessing right to the end.  A very solid anthology story indeed.

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The risible The Horror Network did something similar to this story in that it’s a foreign language short in an otherwise English-spoken anthology and it features a boy and his bitch of a babysitter.

The boy wants to watch his favourite show which features a man in a rabbit costume called Timothy.  The babysitter wants him to fuck off and go to bed.  She gets her own way, at least until Timothy shows up in the house ready to turn this short’s colourful palette a lot more red.

This was an okay section but lacked any real depth and ends abruptly.  It’s okay but just filler.

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Ghost Train

Acting as further proof that this collection has absolutely no theme running through it, Ghost Train is a very effective horror tale about two men who return to a disused ghost train to pay tribute to their friend who went missing there when they were all children.

Featuring Irish actors and a muted colour scheme, this is a very understated tale which builds the tension expertly all the way to the scares at the end.  It ends up being one of the best sections in the film and, along with Feeder, probably validates the choice to watch Minutes Past Midnight.

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That said, it’d be very surprising if this film ended on a classy note like Ghost Train so it’s back to redneck country again for this comedic tale of mayhem and violence.

Horrific features another all-American loser and this time our protagonist finds his run-down home invaded by creatures that aren’t averse to biting chunks out of him.  It’s pretty much a super-lean version of Of Unknown Origin and despite the inherent silliness of the whole thing, it’s an entertaining watch.

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Overall, there is enough good in this portmanteau to outweigh the bad.  Out of nine stories, only a couple left me entirely unentertained while at least two were pretty damn good indeed.  That said, the overall package is weaker than the sum of its parts thanks to the lack of a linking story and an overall style and theme that jumps around with seemingly no real sense of purpose.

Still, who needs purpose when you’ve got this much content packed into less than ninety minutes.  It beats watching QPR these days anyway.

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