J. Lee Thompson‘s 1983 thriller 10 To Midnight is virtually unknown in horror circles, as its advertising billed it as a typical vigilante cop crime-drama. The film, starring ultimate silver-screen badass, Charles Bronson, is a taut action-thriller, but at the same time it’s one of the weirdest, most fucked-up slasher horror films of the 1980s.
This bizarre film certainly deserves recognition among horror fans who may be unaware of its existence, and Gene Davis’ portrayal of the nudist serial-killer creepazoid, Warren Stacy, is one of the great underrated horror-villain performances of all time.
The gist of the film is that a psychopathic loser who can’t get laid gets back at the women who won’t fuck him by murdering them—in the nude—that is to say, HE is in the nude… and, well, usually the women are too. Anyway, things get complicated for him when he goes after Charles Bronson’s daughter, because Bronson is a cop who doesn’t play by the rules and isn’t afraid to take the law into his own hands. You can probably fill in the rest, but whatever you’re imagining isn’t nearly as fucked-up as what actually happens in 10 To Midnight.
It’s not that the film is extremely graphic, but the imagery of a completely nude male serial-killer stalking and butchering nude or scantily-clad women creates a level of viewer discomfort that is rare for the by-the-numbers slasher genre of the 1980s. The killer in this film doesn’t wear a mask. In fact, he doesn’t wear anything. There’s a level of grotesque intimacy between Warren Stacy and his victims that you don’t have with a Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers.
It’s a level of fucked-upedness that could only be achieved by the infamous production company: Cannon Films. If you’re unfamiliar with Cannon films and their prolific canon of B-films, I highly recommend the documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films which details the rise of the Israeli-launched production company which came to dominate the exploitation film markets in the ‘80s. Back then if you saw the Cannon logo at the start of a film, you knew it was going to deliver the goods BIGTIME in a simplistic, straight-forward way, and it was probably going to be a little bit OFF somehow.
10 To Midnight certainly has its “off” moments. And by “off” I mean completely weird and awesome. In one scene Bronson, the Dirty Harry-esque cop who doesn’t play by the rules, confronts the accused killer with a ridiculous sex toy he’s confiscated from the suspect’s apartment. He barks at the suspect: “Warren, do you recognize this?! You ever seen one of these before? What’s it used for? What’s the matter, cat got your tongue? IT’S FOR JACKING OFF, ISN’T IT!?”—As if “jacking off” with an enormous sex-toy prop that looks like a cross between a fleshlight and an electric knife is admissible evidence of serial-killing.
Amazingly, the same laughable prop also turns up in J. Lee Thompson’s 1989 Bronson vehicle, Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects
Stop reading right now and watch this crucial scene and its masterful use of dialogue: “It’s for jacking off, isn’t it!”
More of this madness, after the jump…