In the heat of night

How Mid­night Spe­cial is a sci- fi man­hunt with a retro twist.

SFX - - Red Alert -

Mud writer/ di­rec­tor Jeff Ni­chols pitched his lat­est movie as a “sci- fi chase film”, but his in­spi­ra­tions were rather grander. Mid­night Spe­cial stars Adam Driver, Kirsten Dunst and Michael Shan­non and was shaped by Ni­chols’ love of two genre clas­sics from the ’ 70s and ’ 80s. “Aes­thet­i­cally, the film was in­flu­enced by Close En­coun­ters and espe­cially John Car­pen­ter’s Star­man – with its use of anamor­phic lenses and blue light, and the beau­ti­ful night pho­tog­ra­phy,” he tells Red Alert. “I wanted the story to be fast- paced and take place mostly at night. In terms of char­ac­ter and plot, this is like all of my pre­vi­ous films – grounded in re­al­ity and rooted in char­ac­ter and drama.”

The film tells the story of Roy ( Shan­non), who dis­cov­ers that his eight- year- old son Al­ton ( Jae­den Lieber­her) pos­sesses oth­er­worldly pow­ers, mak­ing him the tar­get of a man­hunt. “The story came to me after I be­came a fa­ther, when my son started ex­pe­ri­enc­ing seizures,” says Ni­chols. “The movie is about this fa­ther- son re­la­tion­ship, and it just so hap­pens that the boy has su­per­nat­u­ral pow­ers.”

Michael Shan­non was drawn to Mid­night Spe­cial by his own parental ex­pe­ri­ences. “Al­ton is the most im­por­tant per­son in the world to Roy, which is how I feel as a fa­ther,” he says. “But Roy is not sure who Al­ton is. Al­ton has abil­i­ties, pow­ers, that seem to come from some alien source. As the story un­folds, I start to ques­tion whether his pow­ers come from a place of malev­o­lence.”

Ni­chols brought the same stripped- down ap­proach to Mid­night Spe­cial that he re­lied on for his pre­vi­ous films, favour­ing prac­ti­cal ef­fects over CGI. “Al­ton emits light from his eyes,” he ex­plains. “We rigged glasses with LED lights, which were put on lenses and placed over the reti­nas. I want the ef­fects to look im­pres­sive, but I also want the au­di­ence to be ask­ing ques­tions after the film ends.”

Mid­night Spe­cial opens in cin­e­mas on 15 April.

When the Sat Nav lets you down, you can get a bit tetchy…

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