Ten Minutes to Midnight (2020) Review
Twenty-five years after playing radio DJ Vanita ‘Stretch’ Brock in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Caroline Williams is back on air in Ten Minutes to Midnight, the new film from Erik Bloomquist (Long Lost). And this time even Leatherface would keep his distance because she’s out to prove a woman scorned’s bite is worse than her bark.
After thirty years on the air, it’s Amy Marlowe’s (Caroline Williams, Bloody Ballet, Hanukkah) last night doing her show, Ten Minutes to Midnight, on WLST Radio. The only thing is, nobody has told her that. So when she braves a hurricane and a bite on the neck from a bat to show up only to have her boss Robert (William Youmans) tell her that Sienna (Nicole Kang, Swallow, Two Sentence Horror Stories) will be shadowing her during her show, she’s not amused. Amy can tell Sienna is intended as her replacement but her producer Aaron (Adam Weppler, Alien Warfare) lets it slip that she’s being replaced after the show.
Justifiably pissed off Amy is would leave except the storm has everyone forced to remain in the building. As the night wears on she begins to be plagued with headaches, hallucinations and a thirst for blood. And when she dines on a used tampon to feed that hungry we all head down a rabbit hole of madness.
Ten Minutes to Midnight is anything but a standard vampire film. And despite its radio station setting, it’s not another Pontypool, Feedback or even The Final Caller either. It’s got a strange style of its own, one that feels more like a fever dream than a conventional film. Which is fitting for a film where the main character may well be developing rabies.
There are shots with exaggerated neon lighting to make them resemble cartoons. Or just the opposite, a black void with only Amy and a bright red phone visible. These scenes go perfectly with the bizarre and bloody events Bloomquist and his co-writer/brother throw at the viewer. People are bitten, both in the usual and the vampiric senses of the word. Sienna transforms into a strange creature. A retirement party turns into a wake, complete with a coffin.
Mixed in with all the madness, however, are more serious moments as Amy is forced to face her past and how she got here and what might lie ahead of her. A scene where she relives Robert coming on to her when she first started at the station is particularly effective.
In its more serious moments, Ten Minutes to Midnight has something to say about sleazy bosses like Robert. And about how the workplace treats women, especially in the entertainment industry. To the film’s credit, it does get much of that across without being preachy. But it undercuts itself as well. Let’s face it, thirty years at the same station is a great run for any DJ. Hell, thirty years at the same company is a great run just about anywhere these days. Is it really just using you up and throwing you away if you get an exceptional career out of it?
Williams gives a great performance as Amy, going from angry and scared to thoughtful to full out animalistic. She’s given excellent support by Weppler as the sympathetic Aaron. The late Nicholas Tucci (You’re Next, The Ranger) gives one of his last roles as Ernie, the station’s security guard.
Whether you consider Ten Minutes to Midnight an off-the-wall horror film or more of a surreal thriller it is a film worth seeing despite its occasional missteps. It’s currently available to stream via 1091 Pictures. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more information.