Writer/director John Johnson’s short horror film Midnight Macabre is a mesmerizing piece of cinema that makes its mannequin star feel human and sympathetic – until some despicable acts are committed. Yes, you read that correctly: a mannequin takes the lead role in this short. Johnson imbues his film and, indeed, this character with enough emotion to send viewers into the valley of the uncanny.
As Midnight Macabre opens, Jennifer (represented by the mannequin) reminisces over a scrapbook filled with reminders of happier times, such as sporting event tickets and the wedding invitations that she and her husband John (Scott Johnson) sent out. Set to a melancholy piano and synthesizer score by John Johnson and Chuck Phipps, we are immediately drawn into a world of heartache as Jennifer sheds tears over these tokens and stares at her stepdaughter Karissa’s (Karissa Johnson, real-life daughter of John Johnson) honor roll certificate and report card. As Jennifer continues going about her business, though, we learn that John was unfaithful, which leads to her committing some heinous deeds, the effects of which are shown in gory detail.
John Johnson, who also shared camera duties with his brother Scott Johnson and did makeup, manages to convey a great deal of drama, emotion, and shudders using limited motion from a mannequin, minimal but impactful screen time from two human actors, voice over dialogue, striking visuals, and a score that perfectly fits the offbeat tone of the short. The story progresses tightly and pointedly using this effective minimalist approach and Mannequin offers a viewing experience unlike most anything else you are likely to see this year.
Midnight Macabre: (3.5 / 5)