Sunday, August 31, 2008

10 to Midnight (1983)

Let me just start off by saying that this movie made me want to shoot people! When I walked to my car afterwards, I was so pumped up that I kept thinking about my day and how awesome it would have been to end the obnoxious arguments that I had with customers with gunshots to the face, and lines like "No you won't!"

From the director of the original "Cape Fear," J. Lee Thompson, comes this Charles Bronson infused detective/vigilante film. Bronson plays grumpy veteran cop, Leo Kessler, who along with his younger, cockier partner, Paul McAnn, is hot on the trail of awkward serial killer, Warren, played by Gene Davis.

Warren has a particularly odd habit when it comes to brutally stabbing his female victims, he likes to strip down to nothing, and stalk them naked. Gene Davis' performance is really something of an anomaly; he either completely succeeds in creating an unsettlingly awkward & mentally fractured character, or he's just a bad actor. Either way, there's some amount of mental deficiency at work, and it lends a certain element of authenticity to the performance.

As the film progresses, more dead bodies turn up, but Kessler & McAnn can't put Warren behind bars. When faced with the reality that Warren might get away with it, Leo takes matters into his own hands by planting evidence to incriminate Warren. All of this leads a courtroom sequence where Warren is defended by Geoffrey Lewis (you know Orville from the Clint Eastwood movies with the orangutan).

Eventually Kessler has a conflict of conscience, and admits to planting the evidence. Warren is set free and Leo looses his badge. Warren then begins stalking Leo's daughter, Laurie, with some amazingly creepy (and hilarious) phone calls. For whatever reason Warren not only adopts a Spanish accent for these phone calls, but also a "paperboy" hat. From here on out, the film is all about Bronson stalking the stalker and just kind of fuckin' with him, ruining his day, that sort of thing. All the while, implying that he will eventually catch him red-handed.

The film culminates in Warren's murderous spree inside the dorm that Laurie lives in. He, butt-ass-naked, chases her out into the streets, which leads to the final confrontation between Leo and Warren.

Zack, host of Terror Thursday, pointed out that my favorite film critic, Roger "the Fat Man" Ebert gave this film zero stars. You can read his review here. I have no problem with him giving this film zero stars, I actually like reading his zero & half-star reviews more than his 4 star ones. I know from reading his reviews for years that he withholds zero star reviews for movies that in his opinion, he finds "somehow immoral." As my friend Austin noted, that's not really a place for film reviewer, but whatever, it's all his opinion anyway. I did find it funny that in the Fat Man's review he pointed out the logical flaw that occurs in the final chase sequence. Bronson while tailing Warren and Laurie by several minutes, somehow manages to magically cut them off at the pass, so to speak. How did he even know that they were running out in the streets, much less where they were heading, and how did he get there so fast? When he arrived at the dorm, they were all ready gone.

The only answer I can offer is that he's...Charles Bronson.

The film does a great job of balancing thematic elements and shifts rather effortlessly from a slasher film to a detective mystery to a courtroom drama and eventually to a vigilante film. Bronson is not just good as the world-weary cop, but I thought that he was very tender as Laurie's absentee father.

Some of the highlights included:

--All of Warren's dirty telephone calls.

--Leo's matter-of-fact-delivery of the following line in the morgue: "Anyone who does something like this, his knife is his penis"

--Wilford Brimley!!!

--Leo's interrogation of Warren where he holds up a "sexual aid" and bates him by asking if it's for "JERKING OFF!?!" (on a side note, a Terror Thursday regular, in a discussion of what kind of "sexual aid" we thought it was, said that they thought it was for mashing potatoes).

--Leo's comment to the press after the planting evidence fiasco: "Why don't you go fuck yourself?"

"10 to Midnight" screened at Midnight on 8/28/08 and was present by Terror Thursday

1 comment:

George said...

If I remember correctly, when the killer is chasing her, she actually turns a few corners to where at the end she is running back towards the house.

I can't believe no one else noticed the unicorn poster on the wall when the killer is watching the roommate of the first victim undress.

Also, the TV that could show the future was pretty awesome.