Promising thriller falls apart in bloody second half.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Mid-Century is a horror/thriller about a couple (Chelsea Gilligan and Shane West) who rent a classic house, only to discover that its original architect was involved in sinister stuff that will put them both in danger. It starts promisingly with themes of gender politics but falls apart with a silly second half. There's upsetting violence against women (hitting, strangling, throat slicing, kidnapping, shooting, etc.), plus deaths, blood and gore, spooky stuff, etc. Two people kiss and are seen lying in bed (presumably after sex); in another scene, two other people kiss -- one of them is naked, but nothing explicit is visible. There's a brief glimpse of a woman's nipples, and creepy paintings depicting topless women. Language isn't frequent but includes uses of "f--k," "s--t," "motherf----r," "a--hole," etc. Characters smoke pot and cigarettes and drink socially; the main character drinks a lot of whiskey in one sitting.
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What's the Story?
In MID-CENTURY, ER doctor Alice (Chelsea Gilligan) and her architect husband, Tom (Shane West), hope to repair their struggling marriage during a getaway in a beautiful mid-century home designed by the famous Frederick Banner (Stephen Lang). After poking around, they realize that they're in Banner's actual home. They fight, and Alice leaves for work while Tom starts researching the house. He uncovers disturbing information about Banner. Creepy figures begin to lurk in the corners, and a strange woman (Sarah Hay) appears. Everything leads up to the night of the Blood Wolf Moon -- and a bizarre ritual that could put Alice in danger.
Is It Any Good?
This thriller begins promisingly, reveling in architecture and offering a stark commentary on misogyny, but at the halfway point it turns silly, relying on stale clichés and an unsatisfying "twist." The opening scene of Mid-Century, set in 1963, slyly demonstrates misogyny at its simplest: A husband brings his wife a gift. She hopes it contains books (Naked Lunch in particular!) or a drill, but it's a pair of sexy undies. The husband then makes her try them on. Then, in the present day, Alice and Tom argue about having kids; Alice loves her job and doesn't want them. Tom's reply eerily recalls the 1963 husband: "Can you think about me, too?" The villain, then, is a hyper-misogynist, showing its extremes and offering context.
Director Sonja O'Hara uses visuals cleverly, showing Banner's particular kind of architecture -- a blend of indoor and outdoor spaces, plus creepy paintings of women -- to underline her themes. So it's a letdown when the big climactic "ritual" simply forgets it all. The second half of the movie feels as if it were lifted from some other film. The same goes for Tom's fate, which shall go unmentioned but provides a tool for the big showdown; it, too, feels cheap and betrays the movie's good first half. One final factor that marks Mid-Century more as a trashy Z-grade movie than as a smart, promising indie gem is the advertising of Bruce Dern -- who has a small role in a flashback -- as one of the movie's "stars." It's a letdown.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Mid-Century's violence. How did it make you feel? Was it exciting? Shocking? What did the movie show or not show to achieve this effect? Why is that important?
What does the movie have to say about misogyny and/or gender politics?
Is the movie scary? What's the appeal of horror movies? Why do people sometimes like to be scared?
How are alcohol and pot portrayed? Are they glamorized? Are there consequences? Why does that matter?
Alice likes to say that "love is showing up and sticking around." Do you agree? Why, or why not?
- In theaters: June 17, 2022
- On DVD or streaming: June 17, 2022
- Cast: Chelsea Gilligan, Shane West, Stephen Lang
- Director: Sonja O'Hara
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violent content, some language, drug use and brief nudity
- Last updated: October 8, 2022
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