The idea of a horror director turning his or her attentions to the written word for some reason scares the piss outta me. It’s not that I think they can’t be successful at it; it’s just that a director’s mind works differently from that of a novelist. A director sees things in a very visual way where a novelist sees things in more of an “inner” manner (motivations of characters, back stories, driving the plot forward, etc …). So when I was contacted by Jonathan from over at Random House about the new novel, MIDNIGHT MOVIE, written by Tobe Hooper, I was hesitant. I mean this is Tobe f-ing Hooper; the man behind THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and one of my personal horror heroes (Mr. Hooper; if you’re reading this, please attend 2012’s Texas Frightmare Weekend in Dallas!!). He’s The Man who directed EATEN ALIVE, POLTERGEIST, SALEM’S LOT, LIFEFORCE (yeah; I love LIFEFORCE), and two episodes of my all time favorite TV show, NOWHERE MAN. What if I hated his novel? I’d be devastated to write a bad review of it (which you all know I would do).
Luckily I was worried about nothing.
Cutting to the chase, MIDNIGHT MOVIE is a fantastic novel. It’s fast-paced, full of great characters, and has a great plot. Tobe Hooper plays himself in the novel, which is written in a journal-like fashion where the characters are talking about and documenting “The Game;” a deadly virus that breaks out across the US after a midnight premier of Hooper’s first amateur film, Destiny Express, at the famous South By SouthWest festival. Hooper teams up with Dude McGee, the guy who found the lost film and organized the screening (and who refuses to call Hooper by his proper name) and Erick Laughlin, a film critic with the Austin Chronicle. As they slowly come to realize that Hooper’s film is the cause of The Game, Hooper tries to figure out and unravel his mysterious past to find out how and why the film could’ve possibly produced the destructive virus. When the group finally figures out what the hell is going on and how they can stop and reverse the effects of Destiny Express, it may be too late … but they give it the old college try (I love the “getting the old band back together again” feel MIDNIGHT MOVIE has; you’ll understand it when you read it).
MIDNIGHT MOVIE is a rather unique twist on the zombie genre, and Hooper is using the “zombie” and The Game as an extended metaphor for what’s going on in world events today. The Game slowly becomes an apocalyptic event that started off isolated in Austin, Texas but soon spreads through the country. It’s everything that’s happening today rolled up into one event. It’s our fucked up economy, the brilliant minds that caused the economy, the rise of terrorism, the isolation and alienation of the modern human being, and the threat the constantly evolving current technology poses to the human being. Oh yeah; MIDNIGHT MOVIE is also a ton of fun!!
Filmmaker, author, & Master of horror Tobe Hooper
Hooper’s writing style is crisp and matter-of-factly and straddles the thin line between what’s real and what’s fiction. I know Hooper’s characterization of himself in the novel isn’t either 100% accurate or 100% fictitious. I’m guessing there’s elements of truth and fantasy in the way Hooper portrays himself in the novel, and I really enjoyed it. He’s also extremely self-referential. We’re reading a book written by Tobe Hooper who’s a character in the book writing a book about himself. Got it? When Erick confronts Tobe with his theory that Destiny Express is the cause of The Game, and the whole thing started in Austin, TX, Hooper responds, “Austin would be the perfect place to set off a weapon … If I were writing a pandemic flick, I’d totally set it in Austin.” References like this, I bet, made even Wes Craven stand up and cheer.
Are you wondering about the gore level? Well come on; this is Tobe Hooper after all. We get some pretty fun gore and the zombies are rather unique in that they seem to retain their intelligence (or at least a semblance of it) and their strength and speed. Plus there’s a sexual aspect of The Game. Besides people becoming hyper-sexual, those infected also drip blue gunk from their meat bats and whoo-whoo’s.
I also really enjoyed this novel based on the fact that I live in Austin, TX. Hooper uses real landmarks from around the city and always talks about the city in a bitter-sweet way (kind of like the way I think of Austin). The one thing I was worried about was how the hell he was gonna explain how his film Destiny Express gave birth to the virus which created “The Game.” But Hooper pulls it off without it sounding like a RING ripoff (which he references). It’s a unique explanation and the fact he doesn’t try to explain away every little element, and leaves some of it mysterious, was a smart choice.
I had so much fun reading MIDNIGHT MOVIE, and even if Tobe Hooper wasn’t involved with it, I would’ve still found this one hugely entertaining. Very well written with great (quirky) characters, great dialogue, unique zombies, and a mind blowing cause of the apocalyptic virus makes this one kick ass, fun read. I can definitely foresee this one hitting (if not topping) my “Best Novels of 2011 List” at the end of the year. I really loved this one.
Authors: Tobe Hooper (with Alan Goldsher)
Plot: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 7.5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 3.5 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer