Directed by: Erik Bloomquist
Written by: Erik Bloomquist, Carson Bloomquist
Starring: Caroline Williams, Nicole Kang, Nicholas Tucci, William Youmans, Adam Weppler
Grimmfest Film Review by: Darren Tilby
It is a surprisingly perceptive little vampire flick, Ten Minutes to Midnight. A contemplation on age, specifically as it affects women, that deals, also, with sexual harassment and the metaphorical death of one’s career (retirement), neatly wrapped up in the skin of an 80s horror film. And while it is let down a little by some underwhelming performances, clichéd genre mechanics and a cumbersome finale, this is still an incredibly enjoyable, retro romp—especially for us oldies!
Amy Marlowe (Caroline Williams), a late-night radio host on the eve of her forced retirement, is bitten by a rabid bat and subsequently trapped inside WLST Radio station – where she has worked for over 30-years – by a violent hurricane. Stuck with a now-uneasy staff, including Robert (William Youmans), her depraved boss, and trailed by mysterious and ambitious younger replacement, Sienna (Nicole Kang), Amy’s situation becomes a fever dream-like nightmare and a terrible change begins to take hold.
And, much like a fever dream, there is a lot here that does not much make sense. This is less a complaint as it is a warning...do not go into this film expecting clear-cut composition or a narrative with a wholly resolved ending, because you will not get it. But, if you are more familiar with 80s horror, as I am, (think Lamberto Bava’s Demons) you will have a better idea of what to expect. It is fine; there was no pretence that this was supposed to be anything other than a homage to an iconic decade of filmmaking.
Ten Minutes to Midnight’s underlying themes, though, are a very welcome surprise. Well-judged and genuinely insightful, this level of perception is, sadly, often lacking from other films of its kind. And, for me at least, any shortcomings in Erik and Carson Bloomquist’s narrative and dialogue writing – the ending, in particular, is an unwieldy jumble of fakeouts and indecision – are redeemed by the filmmakers’ comprehension of women’s issues in the workplace—whether that be age discrimination or sexual harassment.
Performances, however, are a mixed bag, to say the least. Central performances from Caroline Williams and Nicole Kang are, thankfully, superb. But renditions from the extended cast range from being wholly serviceable to downright poor, sometimes within the same scene. It is a similar story with Thomson Nguyan’s cinematography – which, while never bad, flitters between inspired and mediocre – and the movie’s soundtrack - an ironically dull affair.
There are issues here, without a doubt. But Ten Minutes to Midnight is an enjoyable and playful piece of retro-filmmaking with an extremely sharp, contemporary, edge.