Review by Paul Grammatico
When Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula was published in 1879 and made vampirism a thing, there are a massive number of literary and visual works that has referenced these infected, mutated and cursed beings. This presence of the undead has permeated in many films throughout cinematic history with the romantic, to the menacing, to the lurid, to the comedic. With ‘Ten Minutes to Midnight’, Mainframe Pictures with Jinga Films and 1091 Pictures give us a gritty, lurid, but fun vision of how a single event can cause catastrophic consequences.
Amy Marlowe (Caroline Williams), a late-night DJ at a local radio station, comes into work in the midst of a hurricane with a new accessory on her neck, a bite from what seems to be a large bat. As she begins to get ready for her show, she goes to her boss’s office where Robert (William Youmans) is with his new hire Sienna (Nicole Kang). Amy then realizes that Sienna is her replacement, and this is her last show. As Amy gets on air, she performs a meltdown on her listeners and Amy’s fury culminates with biting the hand that will supplant. As Sienna’s bitten hand is looked after by Amy’s radio engineer and confidant Aaron (Adam Weppler), Amy, with her wound festering and untreated, has her reality converted into a rabies induced reverie where the potential of becoming a malignant bloodsucker is within her sights.
Co-written and directed by Erik Bloomquist (Long Lost), Ten Minutes to Midnight is a fun vampire romp within a radio station that smacks of B-Movie fun from the 1980’s coupled with delirious and nightmarish fever dreams. The cinematography by Thomson Nguyen is expertly done as it provides us the claustrophobic feel that resonates throughout the small and cramped radio station. The frame switching from 16mm to widescreen provides a unique look that I haven’t experienced from a film. Composer Gyom Amphoux enhances the atmosphere and the pacing of the film with a light touch during the exposition scenes and is not fearful of dropping a hammering beat that pulses through the more horrific and graphic scenes. Toss in some shock rock from Joseph Michael Poole (AKA Wednesday 13) along with a speed metal 73-minute runtime, Ten Minutes at Midnight is an efficient and furious ride of crazed content.
The performances of the five main characters are expertly crafted by each actor that ventures into the frames of the film. Caroline Williams, the lead of the film. gives a wonderful performance as the fading DJ Amy who straddles the line between her mortality and the possibility of eternity. Her reactions to the insane scenes that are thrown in front of her heighten the anxiety of each scene which makes her all the more engaging. William Youmans is a delightfully disturbing as the lecherous radio station manager Robert. Nicole Kang (CW’s Batwoman) performs the young ingénue turned antagonist with expert appeal as we never know if and how she with exact her revenge. Adam Weppler (Long Lost) gives us an expert turn as Amy’s advisor as he tries to guide her out of the insane storm of her mind. Nicholas Tucci (You’re Next, Long Lost) plunges into the character of Ernie to its creepy and menacing hilt, never knowing what he will do or become next.
While Caroline Williams character has a constant arc throughout the film, the four main players make some sharp and unexpected turns in the final act of the movie. These turns create a twist that I haven’t seen in a movie for some time and thus makes it all the more engrossing.
If you’re in the mood for a contained, small budget movie that is eerie, crazy and provides a grindhouse feel spiced with some hardcore rock n roll, then crank this baby up to 11 and rip the knob off!
The film is released on VOD/Digital on January 19, 2021.
Pre-order now on Amazon Prime