Horror veteran Caroline Williams, who’s been around since “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” back in the ’80s, gets a fine C-movie showcase in “10 Minutes to Midnight,” a tale of a “rabid” bat and the hallucinatory bloodlust consequences it has on an aging DJ’s last night on the job.
Or that’s what she would have gotten had the script lived up to her performance and the third act not reached student film levels of “let’s play around, here.”
Williams is Amy Marlowe, thirty-year veteran of her little radio station and hostess of a free-form all night show with the arresting name of “10 Minutes to Midnight.”
Amy’s a local legend and has been since she was “Punk Rock Amy.” Now 50something, she still wears the T-shirts, the leather and the ink, still rocks a commanding presence on the air.
But as a hurricane bears down on her and her town (“Midnight” was filmed at WILI in Willimantic, Connecticut), she and we can see this won’t be a routine night.
There’s the nasty bite mark on her neck, the one the chatty security guard (Nicholas Tucci) goes on and on about, offering to take her to “urgent care down the street” for. Ernie’s a whittler. Might that wood he’s carving be…HOLLY?
Creepy-pervy manager Bob (veteran bit player William Youmans, quite good) is drooling over some freshly-graduated possible new hire named Sienna (Nicole Kang), letting her “shadow” a host she “grew up listening to.”
And piercing-packed producer Aaron (Adam Wepler) finds himself trying to talk Amy down from the mania that grips her from the moment she signs on…at “10 Minutes to Midnight.”
“She’s here to take my job,” Amy blurts out, and between the bite, the paranoia of 30 years playing radio career roulette and the obnoxious “shadow” threat sitting right across from her, she just loses it in a tirade of f-bombs, recriminations and accusations.
Kind of the classic way one ends a radio gig, I must say.
During this long night, Amy becomes increasingly unhinged, lashing out and biting — or is that just the rabies talking? Is she hallucinating this “farewell broadcast” nightmare?
Here’s a quick list of all the ways I think writer-director and “Project Greenlight” alumnus Erik Bloomquist goes wrong.
We lose track of the storm, and with it any possibility of a growing sense of doom and isolation.
He abandons the “radio show” part of the tale in a flash. That opening meltdown, with Amy ripping into callers, Sienna, Bob and radio in general, is all the “broadcasting” done here.
Radio’s “ticking clock” thriller structure — squeezing in action, confrontations and drama between breaks or live on the air — is lost. Netflix “Talk Radio” or the recent Eddie Marsan thriller “Feedback” to see the possibilities thrown away here.
So while the “All About Eve” replaced star vs. ingenue dynamic may work — “You are SUCH a little girl.” “And you HATE that, don’t you?” — while Bob is hitting on Sienna the way he used to hit on Amy (Flashbacks!), while Amy’s mania lurches between hallucinatory and cannibalistic, we’re left with all these deadly dull INTERLUDES of intimate conversation that stop the story cold.
When all we want out of this 73 minute countdown is spiraling madness, violent revenge, panicked attempts at survival and Ernie to finish that damned whittling.
Williams and the cast are better than the movie they’re saddled with.
MPA Rating: unrated, bloody violence, sexual situations
Cast: Caroline Williams, Nicole Kang, Nicholas Tucci, Adam Wepler and William Youmans
Credits: Directed by Erik Bloomquist, script by Erik Bloomquist, Carson Bloomquist. A 1091 release.
Running time: 1:13