Midnight in the Switchgrass review – Bruce Willis and Megan Fox firmly in 90s mode
Everything about this tawdry thriller feels dated, from the serial-killer premise that was all the rage back in the 1990s, to the mannerist editing that keeps inexplicably flashing back to earlier scenes in blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bursts, like some early 2000s film trying to ape the staccato style of 1970s indie cinema. Even the lead performers – Megan Fox, Emile Hirsch and Bruce Willis – were all big names a while ago and have slipped out of the limelight for different reasons. If there were still shops around where one could rent or buy videos or DVDs, this is the sort of movie you’d expect to see in the straight-to-retail bargain bin.
The plot, strictly by-numbers-schlock, revolves around the murder and disappearance of young women, several of them prostitutes, in Florida’s super-skeevy panhandle region. There’s never any doubt who the killer is because we see him, a trucker named Peter (Lukas Haas), kidnapping an unfortunate 16-year-old (Caitlin Carmichael) and locking her in a secret shed near his house within the first half-hour. Meanwhile, local state policeman Byron (Hirsch) is investigating the deaths of other abductees at the same time as a pair of FBI agents, Karl (Willis) and Rebecca (Fox), are trying to lure a suspect of their own – who turns out to be, of course, Peter. Because Rebecca looks like a movie star she gets to be the bait, but her partner thinks she takes too many risks. There are extensive scenes where scantily clad women are brutalised, beaten or simply sitting around whimpering in skimpy clothing, which in itself feels like a painful throwback to the exploitation pics of yesteryear.
Director Randall Emmett has a long list of producer credits, and this is apparently his directing debut. It’s hard not to wonder if something went wrong with the production and he was left holding the bag and compelled to see the project through, because it’s almost impossible to imagine this is a passion project for anyone. Nevertheless, even though it’s largely deeply undistinguished work, credit is due to whoever rustled up some great supporting actors for little roles around the edges, such as Welker White as the mother of one murdered kid, and Samiah Alexander, who is a hoot as a punctilious trucking company secretary.
• Midnight in the Switchgrass is released on 13 August on digital platforms.