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Midnight in the Switchgrass


Stars: Emile Hirsch, Megan Fox, Lukas Haas, Bruce Willis, Caitlin Carmichael, Jackie Cruz, Sistine Stallone, Michael Beach, Bobby Chance, Welker White, Lydia Hull

Director: Randall Emmett

I'd never encountered switchgrass but apparently it's a very tall, spiky grass found in the southern states of America, a kind of panic grass (never heard of that, either). Either way, it provides some of the tenser moments, plus plenty of panic, in this nothing-new-here thriller about a serial killer of young girls in whom the Pensacola, Florida cops seem profoundly disinterested. Very strange.

All that is, except Byron (an intense Hirsch), a dedicated officer rightly concerned at such killings, whose wife (a brief impression by Cruz) lives in fear of him not returning home one night. Two FBI officers (Fox, Willis), however, are interested in the killer, whose tracks they have been following for some time.

The bad guy, who's introduced to us early on, is a trucking company manager (Haas), whose life with his wife (Hull) and small daughter gives no hint of his part-time 'profession'. Currently, he has a 16-year-old runaway (Carmichael) locked away in his capacious garage.

Familiar elements of the genre are pasted together with some style by the debutant director, although the film is unnecessarily strung out towards the end. But Fox (inevitably kidnapped eventually by the killer) and Hirsch are competent players here, and Haas, cast against type, provides a chillingly creepy performance as the home-loving psycho, although where he gets all his torture equipment from without arousing suspicion is one of the film's many unexplained problems, including characters impossibly changing clothes from scene to scene.

In the supporting cast, White shines as a bereaved mom, but the film's biggest drawback is Willis, whose catatonic performance brings new meaning to 'phoning it in'. This really does qualify as taking money under false pretences. It's tempting to say the film is 'not much cop', but actually it's just a little better than that, and will fill a slot on a rainy night before you turn in.

On most major digital platforms

David Quinlan

USA 2021. UK Distributor: LionsGate. Colour (unspecified).
99 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.

Review date: 29 Jul 2021