Midnight Skater (Luke Campbell, 2002)
So I started hearing about local filmmaker (I'm using "local" kind of loosely, he's about an hour away) Luke Campbell a few years ago, but it took me until now to track down a copy of Midnight Skater. And while it's the epitome of the amateur production, there are some chops. No, really.
If you just look at the surface, Midnight Skater is bad, bad, bad. The acting is awful, in almost every case (one might well put this down to Cory Maidens' mentioning in the extras that he was "somewhat inebriated" during most of the filming, and extrapolating that to the entire cast). The special effects are worse, though to be fair they're better than what Herschell Gordon Lewis was doing back in the sixties. The directing and pacing are at least competent, but there are some plot holes big enough to swallow an entire college town (to be fair, some of those are addressed in the deleted scenes). I've seen a lot of no-budget amateur productions, and, well, this one doesn't even get near the top ten.
But when you look underneath, you'll get a surprise. While the actual experience is kind of horrifying, listen to the lines being delivered so woodenly. There's a script holding all this up, and it's a damned good one. Luke and Andrew Campbell and Stacy Silvers wrote themselves a story that's got legs. Had Project Greenlight been around back in the day, I think they would've taken a long look. There are levels to this thing. There are plots, subplots, sub-sub-plots, with everything ratcheting around to look kind of like everything else; they've taken a lot of classic mystery-novel conventions and grafted them onto a horror-comedy. Great stuff.
While I'm tangentially touching on that subject, that's the other thing-- once you get past the diction, this is a very funny script. It tries too hard a lot of times, but every once in a while there's a one-liner that actually had me laughing out loud at my computer screen. That does not happen, unless I'm watching weebl and bob. Period. The trying-too-hard is common for neophyte scriptwriters, and I have confidence these guys will eventually get over it. They're also very good with sight gags; about half an hour into this movie is one of the funniest scenes I've come across in a horror film recently, which involves a couple of uberdorks (played by the Campbell brothers) treating a delivery pizza like a seven-course food orgy from a Henry James novel while serial killer Richard (played by Maidens) is hacking up the delivery guy in the other room. Yes, as with the rest of the movie, the special effects are cheesy, and you have to be there to get the full humor effect, but think about all the subtext you can pull from a scene like that. Campbell does it justice.
This is a first effort from a bunch of kids who, if there is a movie god, are going places. They're not Romero, Russo, and Amplas yet, but they're giving it the good old college try. I liked this movie a whole lot better than, by rights, I should have, and as long as you're not too squicked out by the gore factor (you know those shots that got cut from the final release of Dario Argento's Jenifer I mentioned in that review? Well, Campbell goes there.), I think you will, too. ***