[Popcorn Frights Review] Caroline Williams Sinks Her Teeth into Her Best Performance Yet with '10 Minutes to Midnight'
Having recently played at the Popcorn Frights Drive-In Horrorshow, director/writer Erik Bloomquist (The Cobblestone Corridor) and writing partner Carson Bloomquist bring us Ten Minutes to Midnight...
...The movie tells the story of a storm-caught radio host (Caroline Williams [Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2]) who may or may not be turning into a vampire. On the surface, Midnight is a gritty story about vampires and all the gore that comes with them. However, beneath the monster storyline we get a movie about a strong woman with a lot to give, who now finds herself forced into retirement. After years of service, her career and legacy will end at sun-up.
Amy Marlowe (Williams), the veteran of late-night rock radio, arrives at work during a state of emergency. A massive storm makes travel difficult and Amy discovers her handsy boss (William Youmas), looks to replace her with much younger on-air personality, Sienna (Nicole Kang [Batwoman]). On top of that, she got bit by a bat and now has a bloody neck wound! Never mind all that, though, because the show must go on! Amy gets to make one last broadcast before Sienna takes over the show, but the legendary host wants to go out on her own terms. Every person who speaks gives mention of the three decades of work Amy dedicated to the airways, and her adoring fans make it clear how they all grew up listening to her voice, but change is unavoidable.
Ten Minutes to Midnight follows the classical unities (I’ll explain that in a minute), so right off the ‘bat’ the film meets the requirements for a successful dramatic tragedy. To fulfill the requirements of all the unities, the story must focus on one location, one time, and one action. The film takes place entirely in the WLST radio station where Amy Marlowe and her co-workers find themselves trapped due to inclement weather. The story takes place over the course of a night beginning shortly before midnight and ending around dawn. As for the action, a bat bites Amy on her way to work and the bloodshed begins shortly afterwards. Do not let the simplicity of the synopsis lure you into placidity, however. While the story begins pretty straightforward, as the bat bite begins working its magic everything gets quite topsy-turvy. And just when you get used to that, then things get really weird.
At the core of the film stands Caroline Williams as the vintage vixen of the airways. As the bat bite takes effect on Amy, she becomes haunted by her past, future, and those around her, and the unnatural process of becoming a vampire becomes a metaphor for transitioning from one part of life into the next. The Bloomquists created a strong and meaty character in Amy, and Williams brings so much life to the role with what is undoubtedly her best performance yet. Her line delivery will make you laugh—and might even make a few of you cry—and she proves on more than one occasion she still owns the title of Scream Queen.
Alongside Williams, but by no means in her shadow, Ten Minutes boasts an ensemble cast who deepen the strangeness. From the disturbing security guard Ernie (Nicholas Tucci [You’re Next]), punk rock Aaron (Adam Weppler), lecherous boss man Robert, to cut-throat Sienna, everyone working at the radio station plays an important part in the story and adds to the overall tone of the film. The creepy characters are really creepy, and the unlikeable characters make you want to hate them. There are so many delightful subtle comments and visuals that give the film some high replayability and a large amount of the entertainment comes from the cast. Lots of play on words with rabies, bats, and blood, well-placed tattoos where ‘x’ marks the spot on the most delicious part of the neck, and Tucci, in his final role, ups the creep-factor of every single one of his scenes. Visually the film offers so much to look at and the director packs so much into the cramped space of the radio station.
Bloomquist’s film might struggle to find the perfect audience, as Ten Minutes to Midnight provides a mix of humor, drama, and gore that might irritate horror fans looking for a straight up bloodfest. Also, trying to explain the trajectory of the story will give too much away, so just believe me when I say this is a fun movie. The opening segment possesses a gritty VHS quality, plus the trailer and the movie poster round out the nostalgic quality with a definite 80s feel to the art form. And while the story occurs in present day, the theme of the movie covers change and transition to justify the inclusion of a different era. In our current time when drive-ins are making a comeback out of necessity, Ten Minutes to Midnight absolutely belongs at outdoor theatres. The film definitely resembles grind house flicks with the gross-out scenes but has a fair amount of heart as well. Strong screams, cheeky supporting characters, and a few surprises bring several levels of entertainment.
Ten Minutes to Midnight premiered at the Popcorn Frights Drive-In Horrorshow on August 15th.
By Amylou Ahava
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