As soon as it starts, Minutes to Midnight sets the scene: a couple are taking a stroll in the middle of a forest, stopping to picnic on a small clearing.
The woman mentions how this is the place where some boys were murdered, to which her boyfriend replies that there is nothing to worry about and that they’re “all alone”.
Then a sudden noise, a quick “I’ll be right back”, and both characters get kidnapped by a killer in a terrifying mask.
That introduction scene is so filled with horror movie tropes that you would expect the rest of the movie to actually subverts them; that this would be a joke, a parody, to make you go “I forgot how ridiculous horror movies used to be” and then move on to something new.
But the “gotcha!” moment never comes and you soon realize Minutes to Midnight actually recreates in all seriousness all the most typical slasher movie tropes (which, paradoxically, could be seen as subversive now with the popularity of half-comedy half-slasher movies that poke fun at the genre).
Everything is therefore pretty much as you would expect it: a group of young adults (some couples, some exes, some who are flirting) decide to celebrate the New Year in a lodge in the middle of the woods.
Bad weather traps them in, and three killers (siblings who work together) kill them one by one while being tracked by the local sheriff. Lots of blood and naked women, flashing lights and misty woods.
The predictability of everything that happens rapidly makes the viewer apathetic to everything happening: we’ve seen all of this before, again and again and again.
Even the death scenes, which are probably the main appeal for hardcore slasher fans, are not very innovative (minus two of them that, respectively, make great use of flashing lights and of a scary and cool-looking weapon).
The characters are easily identifiable, with stereotypical but easy to remember traits that make each of them stand out. It unfortunately isn’t enough to make us care when one of them dies, but it certainly is better than if they all looked the same.
On the other side, the three villains are not developed nor seen enough to be interesting, when they could easily have become the most interesting characters of the movie if the filmmaker had expanded their screentime, backstory and traits more.
The costume design, make-up and special effects are probably the biggest qualities of the film. The blood and scars look good, and the main killer’s costume and weapons (all fashioned with human skin and bones) look incredible – and scary enough to be the only thing that stays on the mind once the movie is over.
The use of William Baldwin (brother of Alec Baldwin) in the cast and of John Hennigan, professional wrestler, is also a clever move, especially for the latter whose fighting skills are used several times for great action sequences.
If you’re looking for a very conventional slasher movie, then Minutes to Midnight is exactly the movie that you need. But if you’re not, it will only bore you and make you wish you were either watching a classic slasher (whose use of the same tropes you can forgive) or a more modern and meta horror movie.