Tune Into EVIL’s Overnight Radio Programming! “Ten Minutes to Midnight” reviewed! (MVD Visual / Blu-ray)



Veteran night shift disc jockey, Amy Marlowe, has hosted her own renowned punk rock show for the last 30 years.  On the night of a major hurricane rolling through town, the broadcast must go on as radio never sleeps, but Amy is bitten on the neck by flying bat prior to arriving into the station.  If things couldn’t get any worse, she’s trapped inside the station with the sleazy station executive who surprisingly introduces the disc jockey’s much younger and beautiful replacement.  As Amy deals with the sudden aftershock of forced retirement, she slowly descends into a topsy-turvy reality full of unannounced secrets, movements through her own past and present, and the unusually strange staff transforming into monsters inside the station walls.  To top it off, Amy craves blood.  Between the possibilities of unexpected grief and anger, rabies, or becoming something far more evil, Amy Marlowe, either way, is losing her grip on the real world.

The amount of thought and expression on blunt force change, numb appreciation, and profound existentialism worked into the allegorical dark vampire comedy, “10 Minutes to Midnight,” never steals from the narrative’s basic element, a breed of classically fed undead horror.  Writer-director, Erik Bloomquist, helms his sophomore feature film directorial that is also the second film written collaboratively with brother, Carson Bloomquist, following their 2019 debut thriller, “Long Lost.”  The Connecticut based siblings shoot “!0 Minutes to Midnight” at the ABC affiliated WILI radio station in Willimantic over the course of seven week nights, self-producing under the Bloomquist Mainframe Pictures banner alongside the third “Long Lost” screenwriter-turned producer, Adam Weppler, who also has a major role in the film. 

A soulful, applause-all-around performance by headlining scream queen Caroline Williams who makes her return to the DJ booth 35-years later after going face-to-face with Leatherface’s chainsaw in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” and, by God, Williams still has the cold-cocking charisma of her 1986 self.  Pinned to be discarded by station exec Robert (William Youmans), Amy Marlow loses control of her on-air persona for the first time in 30-years of broadcast radio.  Williams is on target with Marlow’s salacious-pointing meltdown rant with a viperous, quick-witted tongue spurred by the very news of her canning that started the hamster wheeling rolling, putting the pieces together of how much backstabbing, ungratefulness, and all-for-nothing hard work (and her younger days’ sexual servitude) becomes a deafening cacophony of noise before her Ten Minutes Before Midnight broadcast segment airtime.  Watching Williams work never gets dull from the one moment she’s rightfully screaming and ripping someone a new one to being overwhelmingly fractured by the venom that courses through her veins in a transformative and stunning performance.  Accompanying Marlow on her sudden career nosedive are a trio of dividing personalities that pull a different versions of the radio star.  Marlow’s seemingly only workplace friend and confidant, Aaron (Adam Weppler), has been a fan of hers ever since he was little, even providing a touching anecdote about him listening to her broadcast when he was a little boy, and there’s something between them, but teeters between admiration and desire that doesn’t flesh out because, again, it’s another problematic thematical item being circled around.  The other two characters rile up Marlow’s inner angst with their threatening postures or their maddening babble.  Nicole Kang (“Swallow”) and the late Nicholas Tucci (“You’re Next”), in their roles of hotshot millennial newcomer, Sienna, and the quirky and rambling security guard, Ernie, achieve just those respective levels of kicking someone when they’re already down with a flurry of annoyance.  Kang and Tucci deliver concentrated performances.  The acting is so entrenched into their characters, as well as with Weppler and Youmans’,” that when Marlow enters a status interchangeable, role-reversal, and nightmarish last stage of her existence coming to a conclusion, “Ten Minutes to Midnight” reups another thought-provoking scenario; one that has you frantically rewiring the tightly woven profiles your brain has determined about the characters to keep up with Bloomquist who is clearly three steps ahead.

Martin Scorsese once compared certain films to theme parks, noting their cinematic worth only in their high octane action entertainment and special effects that draw audiences in like moths to a flame and never letting the actors do the meaningful work themselves.  “Ten Minutes to Midnight” is a blue-chip, character driven vampire story rare to these parks.  Bloomquist’s themes on ageism, sexism, regret, change, grief, millennials, and more, snake through Marlow’s multifaceted transitional experience in a stylishly cynical fantasy.  Much of Marlowe’s perception isn’t tenaciously reliant on the consequences of the vampire bat bite to her neck.  Reoccurring as an example of perception throughout the film, whenever the camera hovers over a clock displaying 11:50 P.M., is the fading disc jockey finding herself stuck in a timeless rut, eternally clinging to her show in a disparate attempt to be relevant despite the inevitability of change as often noted by each idiosyncratic character – Aaron changing up her normal broadcast set start to call-ins, Robert axing her for younger talent, Ernie incessantly pointing out her symptomatic changes after the bite, and Sienna embodying the very epitome of change.  Marlow’s mind melds with her physical transformation as she goes through the seven stages of grief to at which one point she talks to who might be her younger self over the phone.  Marlow, initially hesitant, does not guide change, but to rather embrace it in a moment of accepting her own checkered past.  However, the dialogue I found to be most poignant was during the retirement party with sunken-eyed celebrators who just randomly show up for the event and Marlow turns to Aaron and comments on not exactly knowing who these people are.  There’s depth and soul in that comment for someone going through the process of retirement who sees unacquainted, new faces and perceiving them with only a tinge of familiarity and a lot of isolating loneliness.

If looking for wildly crafted and superbly acted vampire celluloid, I highly recommend Erik Bloomquist’s “Ten Minutes to Midnight” to sate your thirst now on Blu-ray home video from MVD Visual in associations with Jinga Films and Danse Macabre. The region free Hi-Def 1080p Blu-ray is presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 on a BD25 and has a runtime of 73 minutes. Shot in a shadows of hard lighting, the picture quality is relatively sharp in the lack of natural light, but that sharpness scatters like roaches when a spectrum wave of neon hues or a bathe of vivid tint casts a psychotomimetic inducing trip through Thomas Nguyen’s tightly quartered medium and close up angles. The overall coloring on the location and characters falls into a matte flatness that works to the lightings advantage when using rich exterior color sources. The atmospherics are Amsterdam sultry under the heat of a carnal fluorescent red and Nguyen’s lofty present steady cam endues a nostalgic flame of eerie dreamscapes similar to early John Carpenter, such as in “The Fog” or “Prince of Darkness.” The English language audio tracks come with two options, a 5.1 surround sound and a stereo 2.0. “Ten Minutes to Midnight” is an audio-visual probe into the mind and senses and so the obvious choice here is the 5.1 surround sound; however, the lossy dialogue track becomes quickly overwhelmed by the behemoth sound design and soundtrack, the latter being original music by Gyom Amphoux. Musically, not my cup of tea, but will find an audience and fits into the narrative perfectly. Bonus materials include a behind the scenes entitled “Take One,” audio commentaries by director Erik and Carson Bloomquist as well as star Caroline Williams, multiple featurettes, a Grimmfest interview with the Bloomquists, Williams, WIlliam Youmans, and Thomas Nguyen, Grimmoire Academy and Popcorn Frights intros, and a festival teaser trailer. “Ten Minutes to Midnight” is a dusk till dawn decimator of sanity, a wickedly fun vampire oddity, and has an unforgettable, batty performance from Caroline Williams.

Recommended!  “Ten Minutes to Midnight” now on Blu-ray!

Danzig’s EVIL Stank All Over This One! “Verotika” reviewed! (Blu-ray, DVD, CD / Cleopatra Entertainment)


Three sordid, macabre tales straight from the controversial pages of Glenn Danzig’s Verotik comic line that slips into the surreal lurid dimension of obscure stories of a subconscious half-human, half-spider manifestation with a sexual appetite and a morbid desire to break the necks of women of the night, of a disfigured and mysteriously alluring stripper who seeks out beautiful women nightly to crudely remove their faces with a knife and overlay their once perfect skin on top of her face as she adds them to her collection of facial distinctions, and, lastly, of a bloodthirsty medieval countess known to her subjects for exquisite beauty and grace emanated by the blood baths of her virginal female subjects.

Legendary metal musician and songwriter Glenn Danzig has been a symbolic (Anti-)God that inspired other metal bands and fans over for more than 40 years, birthing perhaps the original, and still more popular, horror-goth punk bands to ever set the black lit stage, the Misfits in the late 1970’s. Outside his illustrious musical career, Danzig owns Verotik, a comic book publisher, that’s a portmanteau derived from “violent” and “erotic,” geared toward adult-themed material and inspired by his fascination with horror. In comes “Verotika,” a three short film anthological horror feature penned by Danzig and is his director debut while in collaboration with powerhouse musical recording label, Cleopatra Records, under their cinema label, Cleopatra Entertainment. Co-producing alongside Danzig is James Cullen Bressack, whose heavily been the created force behind the affectional indie found footage horror “2 Jennifer” and “From Jennifer” films, and Bressack associating collaborator, Jarrett Furst.

Keeping with the “Verotika’s” motif of scantily cladded women and the elements of horror, each story is driven by a female lead portrayed by actress who’ve established themselves with a scream queen presence, have enter the entertainment industry by way of X-rated programming, or are fresh faced with the presumptive hypothesis that the role secured was for their voluptuous assets. Ashley Wisdom is one of those endowed actresses that fit the latter category. The Instagram model and fling of Glenn Danzig becomes a shoe in for the lead of Dajette in the first segment, “The Albino Spider of Dajette.” Wisdom’s cringing faux French accent and rigid manner doesn’t wholly dilute from her bustier attributes that include prosthetic eyeballs for nipples – all part of Dajette’s character – and fairs better than Scotch Hopkins’s (“2 Jennifer”) absurd Albino Spider of grim free verse prospects inside a stiff, stingy mockery of a humoresque spider. Optimistically, the episodes only go up from her with the following tale ”Change of Face” that follows mystery girl, “12/12/12’s” Rachel Alig, hunting down and slashing off the faces of beautiful women for her collection. Alig is a palpable psychopath amongst a sea of overzealous, conventional orchestrated character types that sells a noir, or hints at a giallo, loom that sensualizes as well as sexualizes a salacious one-person schismatic view of beauty. However, the grand finale saves the best for last with Verotik’s more diabolical and foundational brutal transgressors, Drukija: The Countessa of Blood. Without so much of a setup or without expositional bookends that dive into backstory, conflict blossoming, or even resolution, Drukija’s a voyeuristic chronicle that exhibits the day in a life of a abhorrent ruler soaked in virgin blood with Australian actress Alice Tate fulfilling Drukija’s iron spike studded crown. Numerous scenes linger with Tate just bathing in blood or checking her sangre-moisturized skin in a three-way mirror to just extenuate the picking and choosing of daughtered victims, gleaming of deity-hood inside the eye’s of her maniacal maiden hand, and, in her spare time, amasses decapitated heads of the slaughtered young women as keepsakes. Yet, Kayden Kross dignifies that porn stars can get into the silver screen market, well, at least in Danzig’s irregular one. The director and starlet filmmaker hosts an outer edge story as the witchy-gowned and demonically unholy Morella who introduces each segment in between. Sean Kenan (“My Trip Back to the Dark Side”), Natalia Borowsky, Emma Gradin, with special cameo appearances by Caroline Williams (“Texas Chainsaw Massacre II”), Courtney Stodden, and a number of women from the porn circuit like Kross, such as Bobbi Dylan, Katrina Jade, Emma Hix, Aalyiha Hadid, and Veronica Ricci.

I’m all for the forging of industry realms when comic meet the big screen with adaptation and love Verotik’s edgy eroticism and hyper-violence mantra, but “Verotika’s” pulpy irregular narrative meter coursed a perplexing devolved sojourn through our visual cortex, leading us pleading for a bigger, better version of Danzig’s auteur dreamscapes. Verotik’s a fire and brimstone optical narrative from the illustrated pages that speak volumes of profligate and vivid avant-garde characters and unlimited violence that tremendously lose that tailor-made authenticity when translated to the screen. Danzig’s free-form script works with music symbiotically; for together, the strums and riffs glue together disassociating dialogue to a unison of harmonics, even if Danzig’s prefers harsher rock melodies. For the musician’s first dance with directing, Danzig deserves props creating a gory, pulpy, and colorful piece of his subsequent profession. Yet, there’s always room for improvement in his technique, such as Danzig’s fascination with the zoom feature on the camera. The edit cut is almost too rough for swallow with no segue equilibrium between shots that result in some obvious cue acting and I’m usually a fan of Vincent Guaustini’s work, but his Albino Spider suit, in which the other four arms out of the three sets were fastened together, rolled back years of good effects work.

True to form, Cleopatra Entertainment offers a staggering release for Glenn Danzig’s “Verotika” in a triple-format Blu-ray/DVD/CD release distributed by MVDVisual. For this review, the Blu-ray was covered and the transfer is released in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, shot on an Arri Alexa anamorphic lens camera. The enormity of color schemes offers a wide variety of tints, especially in “The Albino Spider of Dajette,” but revert to more a natural tone for “Change of Face” and “Drukija: Countess of Blood” with stable details inside and outside the black. Slightly hazy (or maybe just smokey?) at times, but the 1080 does too good of a job to see all the nonexistent pores on the ripped off faces in “Change of Face.” The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound audio mix that, again, has a lossy quality from Cleopatra Entertainment, a sub-label of a major music recording company. The surround faintly register ambient audiophiles inside the channels whereas Danzig’s rock solid and eclectic soundtrack offers more, just a notch more, LFE oomph quality to boost into all areas. The CD renders around the same lossy quality. Bonus features include a trailer, a slideshow, and, of course, the compact disc featuring a new track from Danzig and also features tracks by Ministry, Pink Velvet, Studio 69, and Switchblade Symphony. Like a bizarro “Red Shoes Diaries'” episode, “Verotika” bares no shortage of nudity that’s interlocked with well-nigh arbitrary violence spread-eagled in a gnarled cinema anthology of surreality that lied festering inside Glenn Danzig’s head.

3 Disc Danzig! “Verotika” on Amazon!