Vampires are perhaps the oldest and most popular cinematic monster. Countless films and television shows have centered around the bloodsucking beasts to varying degrees of success. Sometimes, it seems the vampire sub genre has run out of ideas. In recent years, vampire flicks had reached a creative dead end. Then, Ten Minutes to Midnight came along.
Ten Minutes to Midnight sounds like a pretty fun, albeit typical vamp-camp B-movie on a surface level. Caroline Williams plays Amy Marlowe, a late-night radio host trapped by a storm in the station and turning into a vampire on her last night in the booth. It’s a premise that seems ripe for gory fun, and the film delivers on that. However, it also delivers a heartfelt and introspective story that is as surprising as it is entertaining.
The best part of Ten Minutes to Midnight is absolutely Caroline Williams, who gives the performance of her career. It would have been easy for Williams to fall back into “Stretch” territory–her breakout role in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2–which also had her playing a radio personality. Fortunately, Williams crafts a bold and unique character here. She doesn’t fall back on old tricks. Amy is a self-assured woman who is comfortable with her place in the world–until someone younger pushes her out of that place.
Not Your Average Vampire Flick
Therein lies the true conflict of the film: coming to terms with aging and the unrelenting passage of time. Amy is not ready to give up her life in the booth; she essentially goes through the stages of grief trying to process the notion of retiring. And of course, she does this while turning into a bloodthirsty vampire. Williams nails every line delivery, every emotional revelation, every horrifying transformation. Even as the film slips into surreal territory, she is the anchor grounding the entire movie.
While Williams is rightfully the star of this show, she is surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that includes Nicole Kang, William Youmans, and Adam Weppler. Kang’s young and cool Sienna is a great foil for Williams’ Amy; she exudes confidence, but is also sympathetic enough to root for. Youmans is good as the sleazy, but not too sleazy station manager. Weppler has the most to do in the supporting cast as Aaron, the punk sound tech with a soft spot for Amy. He and Williams have tremendous chemistry, and every scene they’re in together brings out the best in both performers.
If not for Williams’ brilliant performance, the late Nicholas Tucci would run away with the film. Tucci, who plays Ernie, the overachieving security guard. From his very first moment onscreen, he chews the scenery like it’s Bubbalicious bubblegum. There’s subtle sinister undertones to Tucci’s performance, but he’s also hilarious and zany throughout. It’s a performance that leaves it all out on the field, a memorable turn from a talent gone far too soon.
It gets trippy, man.
Without spoiling anything, the film ends up tipping into some severely surreal territory, forcing the supporting cast to stretch their chops in surprising ways. Even if writer/director Erik Bloomquist slightly loses the plot amidst the chaos, he never forgets to keep things entertaining. It’s not just a balls to the wall vampire flick, even if it has some truly bloody sequences. This is a trippy, avant garde ride through the depths of legacy, life, and death that may rub people expecting a superficial thrill ride the wrong way. As for this genre fan, it was wildly successful.
Bloomquist seems to be both utilizing ‘80s nostalgia and criticizing it. It’s a nihilistic little film that also has a lot of hope. It’s a cynical, bitter film that also has a big, pulsating heart. It’ll rip that heart out and drink its fluids, but that’s the fun of Ten Minutes to Midnight. Without the restrictions that sometimes come with a big studio and budget, Bloomquist has crafted something unique. From the opening moments to the abstract ending, Ten Minutes to Midnight is never anything less than wild.
It’s a shame that Ten Minutes to Midnight doesn’t have more push behind its marketing, as it’s a real gem that showcases one of horror’s most iconic scream queens. Caroline Williams has never been better than she is as Amy Marlowe, and this is a rare B-movie with something to say. It balances schlock and social commentary with ease, and never forgets the primary objective of film: entertainment. Ten Minutes to Midnight has all the right ingredients to become a cult classic; I would be surprised if it doesn’t.
Overall Score: 3.5/5
Ten Minutes to Midnight is now available for rental and purchase on VOD.
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