Exploring the complexities that drive the tension of broken marriages and family relationships in modern American society in a nuanced way, particularly with the aid of a seemingly amiable antagonist, can be a challenge for many filmmakers. But the new horror movie, ‘Midnighters,’ which marks the feature film directorial debut of ‘The Walking Dead’ helmer, Julius Ramsay, powerfully transcends the improbabilities that often arises between the characters in the genre. The relatable characters are contending with genuine real-world issues that are only in part driven by their interactions with the villain.
Along with his brother, Alston Ramsay, who wrote the movie’s script, the drama’s director crafted complex protagonists and an intricate and compelling antagonist, who’s powerfully played by actor Ward Horton in an uncharacteristic role. They characters in ‘Midnighters’ are all ordinary people who happen to make some bad decisions that lead to catastrophic consequences, in a misguided effort to improve their harrowing situations. In the process, they all traumatically discover their true selves.
‘Midnighters’ follows Lindsey and Jeff Pittman (Alex Essoe and Dylan McTee), whose strained marriage faces the ultimate test when they’re driving home from a New Year’s Eve party. Jeff, who is resentful that his wife is the one who has a job and is financially supporting them, and that they had to spend another holiday with her colleagues from the bank where she works, is a bit drunk as he’s driving home. After becoming distracted while arguing with Lindsey, Jeff accidentally hits a stranger who’s walking on a dark forest road in their New England town.
In a panic, the spouses decide to take the body home, so that they can sober up before turning themselves in. But they soon discover that the man didn’t actually die after they hit him, and he was armed and on his way to their house. The situation is complicated by the fact that Lindsey’s troubled sister, Hannah (Perla Haney-Jardine), is staying with the couple as she tries to improve her life. She carelessly becomes involved in the coverup when two policemen, Officer Campbell (Joseph Anderson) and Officer Verone) Andrew Rothenberg), begin to investigate the crime scene.
A mysterious man, Smith (Horton), who claims he’s a detective who’s also trying to figure out what happened the night before when he arrives on the couple’s doorstep, also complicates the situation. As the family is thrust into a deepening mystery, they discover that no one is who they seem, including each other.
‘Midnighters’ will have its World Premiere during the Nightfall section at the Los Angeles Film Festival tomorrow night at 9:35 pm PT at the ArcLight Culver City theater. Tickets may be purchased on the festival’s official website. The independent thriller, which is a Graystone Pictures release, is set to receive a wider distribution after its festival circuit run.
Horton generously took the time recently to talk about playing Smith in ‘Midnighters’ during an exclusive phone interview. During the first part of the conversation, the actor discussed how he was immediately interested in taking on the role of Smith as soon as he read the script. Smith’s serves as the story’s antagonist, which isn’t the type of character he gets cast as very often. The performer also noted that he’s excited that ‘Midnighters’ is playing at the Los Angeles Film Festival, as he’s happy to reunite, and celebrate the premiere screening, with the rest of the cast and creative team. (Note: The second part of the interview with Horton will be posted closer to the movie’s official release.)
The conversation began with Horton explaining why he was interested in playing Smith in ‘Midnighters.’ The actor noted that he received the role “through the typical casting protocol. My agents brought me the script, so I read it. I saw that the character they were asking me to read for was exciting, because it’s not the type of character I get cast as very often. He’s the antagonist, and is a little bit of a psycho,” Horton admitted with a laugh. “So for me, it was exciting to tackle something like that,” he also divulged.
“So I sent in some tapes for the role, and then did a Skype session with our director, Julius Ramsay, and we seemed to hit it off pretty well. They then cast me in the role, and it was great,” the performer also shared about the process of being cast as Smith.
Being able to play the villain in ‘Midnighters’ “was a wonderful experience for me. I especially enjoyed being able to work on a project of this size. It allowed me to have some more creative input than I may have on bigger projects,” Horton also revealed about making the horror film independently, outside of the major studio system. “Also, having a director like Julius, and a writer like Alston Ramsay, was great. They were both there to be collaborative during the creative process, which was really important for me. I was happy that was the way it ended up on set. Hopefully that shows in the movie, and we give the audience something that peaks their interest.”
Further speaking of the fact that Smith is the antagonist in the drama, the actor then explained what the process of preparing for portraying, and connecting with, the villain was like. Playing his type of role “is definitely something I’m not used to, but it was exciting. Whether you’re playing the protagonist or antagonist, you really have to come up with their backstory, and the reason why they’re doing what they’re doing. You then have to ease your way into it,” Horton explained.
“I think you can take a role like this, and make him a stereotypical bad guy. But I didn’t want to do that with this character. I wanted to have him initially come across as being personable, in almost an absurd way,” at first, before he becomes menacing, the performer explained. “I think that makes him a little bit freakier than a character who just immediately comes out of the gates with that scary mentality. So I worked hard on easing into that aspect of the character with the help of my director, and working with Alex Essoe and the rest of the cast. Hopefully that comes across to the audience.”
**SPOILER ALERT** Horton also disclosed that “With this guy, you don’t know why he’s doing what he’s doing. So I had to come up with the backstory of how he became involved in all of this, because it really isn’t answered in the film. I came up with an idea of why he got involved in something like this, and why he can justify what he’s doing right now. That justification allows him to carry out what he does in the film, which I think makes it a bit of a scarier situation for the rest of the characters who are involved. **END SPOILER ALERT**
The actor also revealed that he thinks it’s exciting that ‘Midnighters’ is having its World Premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival tomorrow night. “I’m really happy that the cast, as well as Julius and Alston, are getting this recognition for the film, which they deserve. I put a month of my time into this film, but they put years of their time, and their own money, into it. So to allow an audience to see it, and introduce it to the world, at this festival is amazing.”
Horton added that he’s happy that he has the opportunity to travel to L.A. and attend the premiere. “I think most of the cast, along with the creative team, will be there. We’ll be celebrating and having a good time. It will be a joy to see the audience’s response.”