Midnight Movie: A Novel
Tobe Hooper and Alan Goldsher

Three Rivers Press
Trade Paper, 320 pages, $14.00
Review by Sheila M. Merritt

There is an inherent irony about successfully writing raunchy, comic horror: It takes a deft delicacy to keep the yarn under control; the boisterousness shouldn’t dominate or diminish the tale’s narrative focus. Tobe Hooper and Alan Goldsher lose command of their novel Midnight Movie. It doesn’t result in a runaway train becoming a wreck, but the book has trouble staying on the terror track.

The plot conceit can be distilled to a movie pitch: “Tobe Hooper! Famous Horror Film Director, Not Only Co-Authors But Is A Character, In This Ribald Ride Into Zombieland!” All well and good, but where does it go from there? A virus that turns people into zombies is somehow linked to a flick that the director made in his adolescent years. A special screening of the boyhood work takes place in Austin, Texas. The audience members who watch the film in its entirety are altered. Their personalities become confrontational and aggressive. They are amped up physically and carnally. The voracious sexuality is described in detail, especially concerning a former “good girl” with a killer bod; which is an obvious overture to the teen aged boy lodging in the psyches (and elsewhere) of straight guys of all ages. Hooper and Goldsher don’t appear to have to dig deep to access the youthful memories/fantasies.

One of the less hormone dominated dudes makes an arch observation: The aftermath of the screening reminds him of the vicious video in the film The Ring. Such references to motion pictures, and their makers, are abundant. In a satirical Q&A, for example, Hooper fields a query about the degree of his involvement in Poltergeist. One could ask a similar question regarding his contribution to Midnight Movie. Since the story is told from various points of view, there are many possibilities for speculation about attribution. Maybe the most interesting: Did the man write the sections that are told from his viewpoint?

Getting back to sex, which has a starring role in this co-production: The epidemic virus is sexually transmitted. Those infected find their bodily fluids changed in color; “Blue Spew” is a tell-tale sign that zombiehood is in the making. Much is made of this discoloration, usually in the form of lewd jokes and lamentations (a new meaning for having the blues?)

Fond of gleeful gore and expletives, Hooper and Goldsher cannot be faulted for their enthusiasm. Embracing the stomach-churning, hideously hilarious sensibility of John Skipp, the authors leap with abandon into their over-the-top fictional universe. Yet, while Skipp’s influence is perhaps a factor in the flavor of their work, Tobe Hooper and Alan Goldsher don’t possess his flair for the outrageous. Midnight Movie has the bones of an entertaining read, but the literary flesh is weak.

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