The Midnight Hour (1985)

I remember the awe with which I watched this made-for-TV movie as a child. I didn’t have cable, and The Midnight Hour came as close to HBO as anything I had access to outside of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” on Friday Night Videos. This comparison is apt, as Midnight Hour‘s combination of solid production value and lighthearted, gore-free monster mayhem is very reminiscent of the Jackson video, sans the red leather jacket.

LeVar Burton and Shari Belafonte get top billing in the film — the other biggest names being Dick Van Patten and Peter “21 Jump Street” DeLuise — as two “high schoolers” (Burton being 28 and Belafonte 31 at the time) who inadvertently let loose a Halloween curse on their town. Belafonte is Melissa, a popular gal whose ancestor Lucinda (Jonelle Allen) was the slave of town hero Nathaniel Grenville and also happened to be “one of the most powerful witches who ever lived” — although really, if she was so powerful, why was she a slave?

Anyway, back in the day, Lucinda, using what Melissa refers to as “that old black magic,” put a curse on the town, causing the dead to rise, but Nathaniel put a stop to all that and had Lucinda hanged in the town square. (The racial implication of lynching a black woman is played down. This was on ABC, after all.) Fast-forward to the 1980s, and Melissa, Vinnie (Burton) and their posse of nogoodniks screw around and unleash Lucinda’s curse once again. The dead — which, for some reason, include a werewolf — arise.

The producers apparently wanted to throw in every type of monster they could, because although Lucinda is supposed to be a witch, when she rises from the grave, she’s a vampire. She bites Melissa on the neck and somehow possesses her, like a ghost. Most of the other corpses, meanwhile, resemble zombies. Oh, and there’s that damn werewolf.

The Midnight Hour was moderately creepy when I was a kid, and it still has its moments — although they’re distinctly PG-rated, with zombies who’d rather make out with each other than eat your brains. As an added bonus, about half way through, Belafonte breaks into a cheesy ’80s pop song called “I’m Dead, You’re Dying.” Did I say bonus? I meant agonizing ear crucifixion.

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What do you think?