We reviewed Ten Minutes to Midnight ahead of its European Premiere at Grimmfest 2020. If you want a retro-inspired midnight film that delivers weirdness, gore and all the feelings in equal measure then stay tuned.
Erik Bloomquist’s Ten Minutes to Midnight stars Caroline Williams (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) as Amy Marlowe, an aging radio host who is bitten by a rabies-carrying bat on her way to what will be her final shift. As if being forced into unwanted retirement isn't bad enough, a raging storm leaves Amy and her colleagues trapped in the radio station.
If you want to know what to expect from the rest of the film, then you best listen to creepy Ernie (Nicholas Tucci) who warns Amy that Rabies can cause hallucinations. What follows is a mind f**k of a film as carnage ensues at breakneck speed.
Whilst the retro-style credits may lead you to believe this is a homage to the 80's, Ten Minutes to Midnight serves up commentary on modern life. A film for the #metoo generation, it casts a grim light on the pervasive attitude towards aging women in the entertainment industry in a non-preachy way. It is apparent that Amy still has an audience, yet the station are seeking to replace her with college graduate Sienna. (Nicole Kang). Of course, fiery, acid-tongued, Amy, is not going to take the news lying down. With the imminent fear of being replaced and tossed aside, Amy acts out in uncharacteristic ways which are truly satisfying and cathartic to watch.
Ten Minutes to Midnight is an allegory for grief cycle we all experience when dealing with major life changes. For a film that looked like a fun midnight movie, it packed a surprising punch in the gut. We feel every single emotion as Amy transverses her emotions from the denial that her station manager, Robert (William Youmans) could betray her, to the embracing of the fact that her life as she knows it - is over.
Caroline Williams performance as Amy Marlow is badass and supported by an equally strong cast. It is clear that Williams put her heart, soul and personal experience into her performance and she delivers in every single scene. In our interview, Williams told me of how her agent had dumped her due to her age just as she was struggling with coming to terms with her marriage ending. Quite frankly I could not imagine anyone else in the role of Amy. Williams was simply perfect.
I loved the dynamic between the Amy and Sienna. Amy tries to warn the younger Sienna about Robert - how her innocent admiration of him in her youth was eventually abused. We see Robert force himself onto Amy who - whilst she may have previously consented - now appeases him in order to keep the show going - only to be cast aside anyway. Whilst full of admiration for Amy - Sienna shrugs off her advice - happy to flirt her way up the corporate ladder if it opens up larger opportunities - even if it means offering up another woman as a unwilling sacrifice. Yet Sienna is not the antagonist - she is merely a product of an extremely sexist society. Her colleagues are placed in the awkward position of innocent bystanders; Wanting to support Amy but also welcome Sienna. There was touching friendship between Amy and Aaron (Adam Weppler) who grew up listening to Amy's show.
Yet despite the serious undertones the film is a whole lot of fun. Firstly, there is the gore. I had to laugh when Amy walks into work visibly bleeding and claims 'I'm fine'. Then there is the sound track which will appeal to most metalheads who grew up in the 80's and 90's. ten Minutes to Midnight has a hallucinogenic Jacobs Ladder quality to it which makes you question what is real and what maybe a result of Amy's mental breakdown. Certainly the party at the end reveals some weird reversals, and without spoiling anything Ernie steps into the limelight to provide some well timed humour.
Ten Minutes to Midnight will be well received by those of us who are using midnight movies to escape our inevitable mid-life crisis. It strikes the perfect balance of retro styling, weird humour and a realistic perspective on issues we can all relate too. I absolutely loved it.