A late-night radio DJ is bitten by a vampire bat on her way to work, causing issues for her coworkers who planned to fire her after her show.
Director: Erik Bloomquist
Writer: Erik Bloomquist & Carson Bloomquist
Starring: Caroline Williams, Adam Weppler, Nicole Kang, William Youmans, & Nicholas Tucci
Ten Minutes To Midnight (2020) is a surreal horror film written by brothers by Erik and Carson Bloomquist (Long Lost 2018), and directed by Erik. Horror genre icon Caroline Williams (Texas Chainsaw Massacre II 1986 & Leprechaun 3 1995) stars as a late night DJ named Amy, famed for her 11:50 PM nightly rock show called “10 Minutes to Midnight.” The film follows Caroline’s character as she tries to make it through what her boss plans to be her final show. Unbeknownst to anyone at the studio, however, Caroline has been bitten by a vampire bat, and her newfound bloodlust causes an eventual painting of the walls red.
While it sounds like this could be a very straight forward vampire horror flick, the Bloomquists clearly set out to make a cerebral and visually surreal story wherein the path to becoming the undead is full of hallucinations, a thirst for blood, and (sadly) a whole lot of confusion. The idea itself is a very fascinating one. Anne Rice’s portrayal of vampire birth has led to a very overdone staple where an unwilling victim is taught by a wise elder vampire how to feed and exist. The Bloomquists’ vision, though, instead hurls the character of Amy into a rabies-esque madness where her coworkers sometimes become monsters, sometimes are killed, and even swap bodies. It is an intriguing idea, but unfortunately it’s rendered frustrating by a lack of defined rules that would allow the world of the film satisfactory interpretation. This is to say, there is no guide to show what is hallucination and what is reality, and because of this, onscreen contradictions irritate rather than intrigue viewers.
Likewise, the dialogue and characters are problematic in several instances throughout the film. For example, the studio security guard (played by Nicholas Tucci of The Ranger 2018) acts completely crazy all the time, removing any sense of progression into bonkers territory—we start there and stay there. Character inconsistencies are also present, particularly in Aaron, the sound engineer (played by Adam Weppler of Long Lost 2018) who begins as a very likable love interest and turns on a dime to become a jerk without any bolstering from what has transpired onscreen. These inconsistencies further cause viewers “WTF” moments, making it harder to enjoy the successful components of the film.
The biggest of those successes on display in Ten Minutes to Midnight is the acting, which is excellent across the board. Caroline Williams is the real standout, as her portrayal of a woman seen by those around her as past her prime is genuinely intelligent, heartfelt, and heartbreaking. Weppler as the sound engineer is quite good in the role of a precious cinnamon roll, but the abrupt change in his character required by the script leaves the impression his performance was jarring, which is unfair. Nicole Kang (Batwoman series 2019) does well as the ingenue come to replace Amy, and she’s appropriately unlikeable from the beginning. When all of the characters switch roles at a later stage of the film’s insanity, however, Kang has the hardest time portraying her new role, and unfortunately leans too heavily on a comedic take. Amy’s sexist and predatory boss, Robert (played by William Youmans of Birdman 2014), does a good job being sleazy, and his eventual comeuppance is appropriately cathartic.
Overall, Ten Minutes to Midnight is a bit of a mixed bag, but that isn’t a rock-solid reason to skip it. Caroline Williams deserves a view, (as well as more lead parts, given her performance here), and the Bloomquist brothers’ attempts to inject new blood (pun intended) into the vampire genre is commendable, if only halfway baked.