Saturday, June 13, 2020

Chaotic Lawful, Lawful Chaotic: 10 To Midnight (1983)

10 To Midnight (1983)
Rating: ***
Starring: Charles Bronson, Lisa Eilbacher, Andrew Stevens

When Death Wish came out in 1974, main lead Charles Bronson is pretty much set to star in many of Hollywood's action titles as the staple old-fashioned rightist who deals with scum by bending the law for their own brand of justice. 10 To Midnight (1983) is one of these Bronson vehicles, pitting him as a Dirty Harry-clone of sorts against a killer who prey on nubile women.

After his co-worker at a secretarial pool rejects his aggressive advances, Warren Stacy (Gene Davis) hatches a murder plan which involves him going to a local theater and harassing a couple of girls there to create an alibi, before sneaking out through the bathrooms to drive to a nearby spot in the woods where his co-worker Betty and her boyfriend are making sweet love. To further cover his tracks, Warren strips down into nothing but a pair of rubber gloves, which proves to be an effective tactic as responding police couldn't properly pin the murder of Betty and her partner on him due to lack of evidence.

It's almost the perfect murder. Almost.

Among the officials looking into the killings are weary old cop Leo Kesller (Charles Bronson) and his young quixotic partner Paul McAnn (Andrew Stevens), and it turns out Betty was an old friend of Kesller's nurse daughter Laurie (Lisa Eilbacher), who hasn't been in touch with her old man until this case. As the three attend Betty's funeral, not knowing her killer is also lurking within the group, Kesller is made aware by the victim's father that she kept a diary which may contain some details to the identity of her killer. Warren, also hearing this, rushes to Betty's apartment no soon after to try sneaking the diary out, but not only did he find the diary missing, but he's forced to kill her surviving roommate to keep his tracks clean.

By luck, Kesller and MacAnn actually got hold of the diary first and narrowed it down to Warren due to the repeating past encounters he had with the victim. With little solid proof to go by, however, they're unable to hold Warren accountable for the murders, which got our killer feeling cocky as he starts targeting Kesller's daughter with obscene calls. Certain Mr. Stacy is the culprit they're looking for and eager to put an end to his terror as soon as possible, Kesller tampers with the evidence to frame him for the murders.

This nearly worked, riling up Warren into hysterics even, but it misfires badly when it comes to light that the evidence was planted, thus setting our killer free once more and vowing revenge against Kesller.

With the bulk of its story mostly a police drama, 10 To Midnight is only a slasher at the beginning and end of the movie, starting itself with a streaky double murder that got the plot rolling and concluding with a stalk-and-stab last act as Warren goes in the buff again to get even on Kessler by hunting down his daughter, taking along the lives of her nurse roommates in an effectively distressing home invasion scenario. These horror scenes are practically the movie's strongest points since the main meat of the plot, with all its legal talk and police procedurals, is your standard police story and courtroom theatrics copy-pasted from Dirty harry (1971), down to the questioning of lawful politics that have killers getting scoff free due to loopholes.  

This doesn't necessarily mean the crime drama aspect of 10 To Midnight is not entertaining, mind you, but it can get too bare-bone basic for its own good. Fortunately, the film still has its cheesier moments and a good abundance of sleaze to go with the murders, the latter being from the fact that Gene Davis have to go butt naked for all of the slasher sequences and that all of his victims are in various state of undress.

All in all, 10 To Midnight is a fair run of a horror hybrid that caters well to Bronson's fans, those who aren't expecting too much from their slasher flicks and those who aren't squeamish to see a killer's butt crack onscreen. It's all the makings of a classic 80s cop thriller with the right splash of teen bodycounting to boot!

1 male stabbed to death with a butterfly knife
1 female stabbed in the gut with a butterfly knife
1 female gutted with a kitchen knife
1 female stabbed in the gut with a butterfly knife
1 female stabbed in the gut with a butterfly knife
1 female killed with a butterfly knife
1 male shot on the head
Total: 7