“Midnight Macabre” (2015): Non-Human Star Performs Inhuman Acts in Intriguing Horror Short


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.

Writer/director John Johnson uses a mannequin to portray the lead role in the horror short Midnight Macabre.


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.

Jennifer reflects on bitter events that have occurred while pondering her future.

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 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)


Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.