By Ryan Monte, aka DJ Monte Stacks
Talk to any film buff about their favorite genre of film, and you may find your ears being assaulted for minutes on end about the magic of mid-century Western flicks or have to hear them wax poetic about black and white samurai movies from Japan. Many genres mean quite a bit to purveyors of film and have a rich selection of titles in their category—but my absolute favorite genre of movie exists sparingly in the annuls of cinema. My passion for this genre is no less furious, however. So let this film buff extoll the virtues of the best, yet tragically underexplored genre of movie—the film about somebody running around in the middle of the night in an urban area trying to achieve some seemingly unattainable goal while flanked by strange characters and magical realism.
This genre, TFASRAITMOTNIAUATTASSUGWFBSCAMR for short, is most beautifully expressed in three stone-cold classic films: After Hours (1985), Miracle Mile (1988), and Good Time (2017). In fact, these three films directly inspired my radio show Midnight Madness with Monte Stacks on Titan Radio. They are positively dripping with all the neo-noir intensity and grit that has inspired my taste in music and the general tone of my show.
But what makes this type of film so great? These movies straddle the line between suspense and comedy in ways that would make the Coen Brothers salivate. In After Hours an unsuspecting office clerk falls deep into the freakazoid nightlife culture of New York City’s SoHo District and becomes the target of mob anger after encountering (and subsequently pissing off) several denizens of the late-late-night. All he wants to do is go home, yet it seems like some strange, existential force is preventing that from happening. It’s harrowing—it’s positively Kafka-esque!
In Miracle Mile a young romantic mistakenly receives a mysterious call from a payphone outside of where his girlfriend works that lets him know that the US has just bombed Russia and they are at the precipice of nuclear war. He then begins to rush toward where his sleeping lover lives before a nuclear blast levels Los Angeles. Along the way, he meets characters who help and hinder him—but they are all fascinating nonetheless.
In Good Time, a bank robber is responsible for his brother with special needs being arrested and taken to Rikers Island. He tools around the underbelly of New York at night to get the cash needed to bail his brother out before he is harmed or killed while incarcerated.
All three of these films are absolutely soaked in neon lighting, harsh shadows, and various illuminations that can only truly be seen in the dead of night. The striking visuals, in tandem with searing synth soundtracks (Brilliant musician Oneohtrix Point Never scores Good Time and synth pioneers Tangerine Dream score Miracle Mile), set a scene of intrigue that can only be captured in the dark. Uncompromising, deeply flawed characters and endless elements of magical realism make these films feel like a waking dream dancing across your screen.
Ultimately, these films are worth watching after everyone has gone to bed and pair well with your choice of alcohol. If I haven’t sold you on them now, I most likely never will…