A collection of nine horror tales about the terrifying ghouls and the creatures that come out after the witching hour.
If you’re lucky enough to live in Toronto then you might have (or should have) caught one of the monthly genre-short screenings presented by Rue Morgue and Unstable Ground called Little Terrors. Now in its 6th year, Little Terrors presents a collection of short horror films from all over the world, and even though “Minutes Past Midnight” is being sold as an anthology film, it is actually a condensed version of this festival for the home video market.
With that being said, whether you’re watching a short film compilation or a anthology film, the end result is always a mixed bag: some good, some bad and some meh. The one advantage a set like “Minutes Past Midnight” has is that there is no throughline or theme that’s limiting what the short films can do. Instead you’re watching stories that each individual filmmaker wants to tell, not what a producer wants.
For that reason, “Minutes Past Midnight” definitely has a higher ranking than most recent anthologies but there were some short films that I didn’t care for. Well, one rather, which was “Roid Rage”. It was a one-note joke that went on for far too long. Even at a running time of only 14-minutes! Although with the popularity of self-aware, gross-out, comedy-horror movies, it was a good decision that it was included in the set because it will play perfectly for that crowd. For me though, a film about a monster inside a man’s anus is only going to hold my attention for so long.
“Roid Rage” was about the only film that was bad — for me, that is. There were a few that fell more on the meh spectrum. Such as “Awake” — a story about young boy who suffers from a neurotic disorder that causes him to lash out violently. It’s a well made short but nothing substantial in the story itself and nothing to help it standout in its execution. The same can be said about “Feeder” (a man offers sacrifices to a supernatural forces that makes his dreams come true), “Never Tear Us Apart” (a family reunion with a ghastly surprise). and “Timothy” (a murderous children’s TV icon shows up at kid’s doorstep).
Again, they were not bad segments. Often each one had at least some aspect that was exceptional — like a death scene in “Never Tear Us Apart” which featured a nice blend of practical and CG effects — however, overall, those shorts didn’t leave a lasting impression.
There were a few that did though. The first being “Crazy For You”. Not much to say about this one but it’s a cute little movie that mashes together a rom-com structure with a serial killer story. In general, its just a fun short that perfectly executed its idea with performances by the two leads that are equally fun.
One of the other shorts that I liked, and can actually go a bit more in-depth is “Ghost Train”. Lee Cronin created a nice little short film that feels almost inspired by Stephen King in the way that it finds a nice supernatural spin on a mundane childhood experience. In “Ghost Train” two men return to an abandoned amusement park that they visited as children. They return to the park not for the sake of nostalgia, but because they’re still haunted by what happened to them as kids. Just as a fan of supernatural-based genre movies, “Ghost Train” immediately stood out, but also because it tells a concise, compact story that works perfectly within its time frame. More importantly, it uses the supernatural element effectively by basing it off the concept of adults having to face childhood fears.
And while I believe that “Roid Rage” is going to be the big seller for “Minutes Past Midnight” because it has the same tone of projects like “Kung Fury”, I think the final film, “Horrific”, does a better job of capturing the spirit of over-the-top horror-comedies. Invoking the likes of Sam Raimi, “Horrific” is about a man who defends his homestead from a Chupacabra-like monster. Robert Boocheck knows how to time his material and uses slapstick to create both jokes and gruesome moments. More importantly, even without giving us any reason to care for his unnamed character’s plight, we still can’t help but root for him and his fight against the monster.
As good as those three short films were, “The Mill at Calder’s End” ended up stealing the show. Kevin McTurk’s film seamlessly blends together puppetry, animation and live-action to create a short film that is rich with a haunting atmosphere. Feeling like a mix between literary ghost stories and Hammer Films, “The Mill at Calder’s End” weaves a wonderful little gothic tale of witches, monsters and the spirits of a forgotten past. McTurk accentuates his story with beautiful visuals; everything from haunted barren landscapes to the intricate details on the faces of the puppets is absolutely stunning. In the end, “The Mill at Calder’s End” is one of those films that presents the promblematic nature of short films — you appreciate that it’s perfect in what it does in a short amount of time but part of you wishes there was much more to watch.
So, in the end, “Minutes Past Midnight” is not much different than any other anthology or collective in that the content is of a varying degree from good to not-so-good and a bit of meh in-between. Again though, what “Minutes Past Midnight” holds above most anthologies is that there isn’t a common theme restricting the filmmakers to create something that fits within a box. Instead, it’s a collection of different stories from different storytellers that’s been competently put together due it being more or less a condensed version of the Little Terrors film festival.