Thursday, June 4, 2020

A Drug Trip For Pounded Flesh: Death Walks At Midnight (1972)

Death Walks At Midnight (La Morte Accarezza a Mezzanotte) (Italy, 1972)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Nieves Navarro, Simón Andreu, Peter Martell

When fashion model Valentina (Nieves Navarro) volunteers to be an anonymous human guinea pig for a new experimental drug called HDS for her journalist friend Gio (Simon Andreu), she didn't expect seeing a vision of a girl getting her face caved in with a spiked iron gauntlet by a maniac in large shades. Worse even is that Gio didn't stay by his word to keep her anonymous, exploiting her freak out from the vision by taking and publishing pictures of the session, crafting a sensationalized tabloid piece for the city to see and read.

Rightfully angry about his deceit, Valentina confronts Gio about the stunt as it costs her a magazine job, vandalizing his office in the process, but she'll soon learn that something worse is stirring up for her; presumably to cover his tracks, the killer from Valentina's vision begins to stalk her, spiked gauntlet at hand, and has come pretty close to killing her in more than one time. When the police fails to properly recognize her stalker, it's up to Valentina to figure out who this is and stop him for good.

An intriguing labyrinthine plot is always a good expectation to meet from a well-crafted giallo and Death Walks at Midnight certainly delivers on that point; there's no mystery that killer from Valentina's drug trip actually exists, but their identity and motive is what keeps the story going, especially with the twists that the murder she saw was actually committed six months prior and, apparently, a different set of victim and murderer was involved. It's a twisty situation and the increasingly tangling dread subjected unto our lead makes for a good practice of paranoia that heightens the  curious nature of this conundrum, getting further muddled and oppressing the more the plot goes.

Despite the growing strangeness of the story, soon tainted with talks of suicidal women and drug addiction, Midnight impressively keeps a focused direction to all of these set-pieces and revelations, giving us a palpable stream of prowling sequences and an atmosphere of crippling helplessness that sustains the story with enough thrills and haunts to entertain its audience. A drawback here is that it can get too talky with its expositions, force-feeding us one info to the next before we can even properly sink everything in. There's also the matter that the movie nulls over exploring Valentina's relationships from her artist boyfriend and on-off journalist friend to a creepy talker and an inspector who believes she's holding out information from the crime, more often branching the story into character drama territories before kicking itself back into a murder mystery.

Nevertheless, it all ties up neatly at the final act in which the movie shift gear to a hammy action thriller with bad guy monologues, giggling assassins and a drawn-out brawl up at a rooftop in broad daylight. It's also in these parts wherein the kill count starts piling back up, the bloodiest it can get being another spiked gauntlet beating and one hilarious looking drop in which the unfortunate sap's brains get splattered out.

A crafty example of the giallo form, albeit less graphic and sleazy and putting more emphasis on curving plot lines, Death Walks at Midnight works an engaging enough tale that may have spiraled  out of control in some parts, its certainly isn't lacking on blood splatter and vintage cheese to occupy us in the midst of the madness. Rewarding us a fair payoff for sitting through its tricky little devil of a plot (I say fair because I don't even think they bother explaining how drugging Valentina got her seeing visions in the first place), it's an invitingly fun piece of Italian horror/thriller cinema well worth your time.

1 female beaten to death with a spiked iron glove
1 female found knifed on the chest
1 male found dead with chest wound
1 male found knifed on the chest
1 female beaten to death with a spiked iron glove (flashback)
1 male falls off a building, brains splattered upon impact
1 male shot through the back
1 male shot
Total: 8

No comments:

Post a Comment