10 Minutes to Midnight [Grimmfest Review]: Radio Bites
The idea of going to work one day to be told you have a young, new intern there to shadow you, and then slowly coming to the realisation that they are to be your replacement is both cruel and demeaning. This is what late night DJ and Radio host Amy Marlowe has to deal with, but she already knows the game, stating “I was hired to get fired, that’s radio.”. She’s been hosting the Ten Minutes to Midnight show for a long while now and doing a damn good job of it too. That night a raging storm has everyone working at the station in FLP, Full Lockdown Procedure. Unfortunately, Amy is struggling, both with the news of her untimely dishonourable discharge from the radio industry, but also with the annoying bite she received from a bat on her way to work. Things soon begin to take a horrific turn. Is she turning into something evil, something undead and hungry? Has she snapped after being replaced with a younger model? Or, has she just got a mild case of rabies?
This single location horror makes the most of what it has, utilising the recording booths and storage facilities to drown us in darkness then drag us back up with a glimpse of neon lighting. Being trapped somewhere late at night is a familiar horror trope and one that can be springboarded into multiple narratives, be they hauntings, demon attacks or just in-house paranoia. Using a radio station as the setting is something a little different, seen a few times before in films like Dead Air, The Fog and the incredible Pontypool. Of course this also links nicely back to the stunning Caroline Williams and the role that really pushed her into the horror zeitgeist, playing midnight radio DJ Stretch from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.
“The storm raging outside is no match for the one tearing through the radio station as Williams tears through each scene of violence and anger whilst bringing nuance and depth to every emotional hit.”
From watching the trailer and looking at the poster it can be assumed that we’re in for some throwback vampire fun, and of course we do get that, but it doesn’t prepare the audience for the much more internal, surreal and provocative thematics and stylings about the be handed to them. I didn’t expect to finish the film with deep contemplation on mortality, a woman’s worth and the concept of what it means to move on, but that’s exactly what I was left pondering. None of these messages are splashed across the screen, they are subtle, backmasked onto the record for us to pick up on as we take in the main events of the film. I will admit I did find it hard to keep up at points, and I was left scratching my head at others, but I understood enough that it affected me. Its exploration of the post #metoo movement world of women in the entertainment industry and the idea of them having an ‘expiration date’ alongside the competition pitted between women by the society around them is heavy, but handled with care.
For his second directorial feature film Erik Bloomquist combinies familiar genre tropes from the classic 80’s period with allegorical themes about the impact of aging, specifically on women, and dealing with the grief that comes from changes and losing what once was, not a small feat by any stretch of the imagination. Written by both him and his brother, Carson Bloomquist, it is a tight script that manages to be expressive and explosive at the same time.
Caroline Williams is spectacular as Amy, taking us on a journey of anguish, loss and completely justified rage. Her persona is as the cool gothic presenter there to listen to your problems, but as she delves into her own that is when she truly begins to shine. The storm raging outside is no match for the one tearing through the radio station as Williams tears through each scene of violence and anger whilst bringing nuance and depth to every emotional hit. The way she imbues Amy with such strength and yet displays her vulnerability is mesmerising to watch. The rest of the cast compliment every moment as well, playing their roles perfectly with Nicole Kang as the savvy newcomer Sienna, the late Nicholas Tucci as comedic Ernie, William Youmans as predatory Robert and Adam Weppler as the sweet technician Aaron. There is no loose cog in this movie, each performance is brilliant, even when playing more than just themselves.
Don’t worry though, it may be deep but it still knows what a genre audience wants, piling on the practical gore effects, revelling in the violence and making sure we are never too comfortable or complacent with the narrative. From Amy’s bleeding neck wound, to an incident with a boiling hot stove, all the way to a midnight snack in a bathroom cubicle, 10 Minutes to Midnight isn’t worried about offending or grossing out its viewers. There are some hallucinatory, experimental scenes, particularly a party scene at the end that discards the logical and fully enters the internal and emotional giving Lynchian levels of horror. Throw in the neon drenched colours and one hell of a heavy metal soundtrack and it ticks all the right boxes for an excellent Midnight Movie.