It's frightening the lengths to which some people will go to realize their dream. Lee Martin, the creator-producer-director-writer-host and namesake of Lee Martin's Midnight Hour, the made-in-Detroit horror anthology series that celebrates Halloween with a two-hour marathon of episodes from 9 to 11 p.m. Saturday, is keeping his show moving forward with zombie-like relentlessness.
It's not harrowing enough that Martin and his crew frequently shoot in the middle of the night to achieve the properly creepy atmosphere, or scramble every month to get fresh episodes on metro Detroit Comcast and WOW! systems. In keeping with its "retro comic-book horror" attitude, Midnight Hour practically exists on smoke and voodoo in its second season.
"I lost my job without unemployment last May and have struggled to keep things going on a zero budget," says Martin, whose onscreen appearance channels a new-jack Rod Serling. (Anyone remember the original Twilight Zone?) "The first five episodes last season cost me a little over $6,000. Today, by necessity, everyone is volunteer, and I'm deeply grateful. It certainly has been a labor of love. But it's a good show that's benefiting everyone involved in ways that will be more tangible down the road."
A local production made with heart and passion, Midnight Hour hasn't found a way to cash in on the state's generous film tax incentives. Not yet, anyway. But it's among the first episodic dramas produced in Detroit since the golden age of radio, scripted six months in advance, providing experience for more than 40 crew members and 80 local actors (and counting). Netflix has agreed to pick up the series, releasing two-episode DVDs from season one every other month through 2010. "No money in it, but it's great exposure," Martin says.
The commercial-free Halloween night scare-fest highlights the three most popular episodes from the past 14 months, as determined by a viewers' poll on the Midnight Hour website, themidnighthour.tv. They'll be followed by a sneak preview of November's new episode, "Portrait of Jadine," and a 20-minute behind-the-scenes special. "This is a great time of year for us," says Martin, a model of understatement. Check the website for specific broadcast days, times and episodes.
Midnight Hour is a co-production between Great Lakes Cinema and Matt Winne of Ale House Productions, and Aaron Nowak of A2 Productions. Darkhaus Productions, which once did the show's post-production, was also behind the local series that's now renamed Wolfman Mac's Chiller Drive-In. That show has survived legal challenges and controversy to become a popular weekend staple on Detroit's Channel 20 (WMYD-TV). This week's Halloween homage at 12:30 a.m. Sunday is Night of the Living Dead. At 8 p.m. Saturday, Drive-In host Mac Kelly, cast and crew take center stage at "The Crofoot's Creepy Cheapy Halloween Treat 2" party at the Crofoot in Pontiac.
Among other boo-tube happenings in your cable idiot box this week:
• Syfy, the former Sci-Fi Channel, is finishing its "31 Days of Halloween" with a "Viewers' Choice" collection of its original series Ghost Hunters beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday, and the movie Final Destination 2 at 9 p.m. Thursday.
• The CW's trendy new Thursday hit The Vampire Diaries visits a Halloween haunted house at 8 p.m., followed at 9 by a Supernatural episode that combines another trendy phenomenon — poker — with Dorian Gray overtones.
• American Movie Classics (AMC) has a great slate of modern-day horror classics for its "Fear Fest '09" blowout, including Halloween 4 and 5 beginning at 4 p.m. today, House on Haunted Hill and Return to House on Haunted Hill at 8 and Exorcist: The Beginning at 11:45 p.m.; The Amityville Horror at 10:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and consecutive airings of Night of the Living Dead beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday.
• ABC Family concludes "13 Nights of Halloween" with the Bette Midler movie Hocus Pocus at 8 tonight, Scooby Doo at 7 p.m. Thursday and 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed at 8 p.m. Friday and 11:30 a.m. Saturday and a Batman movie festival beginning at 4 p.m. Saturday.
• Turner Classic Movies launches a horror-movie marathon featuring the great Boris Karloff Friday at 7:15 a.m. with The Mask of Fu Manchu, The Ghoul at 8:30 a.m., The Man With Nine Lives at 1:45 p.m. and Isle of the Dead at 6:45 p.m. Halloween day highlights include a double feature of Cat People and Curse of the Cat People at 5 p.m., two versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at 8 p.m. and 2 a.m., and The Body Snatcher at 11:15 p.m.
• HBO offers Aliens vs. Predator Requiem and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor beginning at 8 p.m. Friday, while HBO Family serves up its half-hour series Ghost Trackers from 2-11:30 p.m. Saturday.
• The Movie Channel chimes in Halloween night with Beowulf at 7 p.m., the 2007 production of Halloween at 9, Day of the Dead at 11 and Killer Movie at 1:50 a.m. Sunday.Jim McFarlin is a media critic for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]