YOU'LL DIE AT MIDNIGHT
Director: Lamberto Bava
Year of release: 1986
Country of origin: Italy
Running time: 88-90 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: VHS & DVD only as far as I know
Also known as: Midnight Killer
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: A policeman with anger management issues discovers that his wife has been cheating on him with another man. Confronting her about it later that day at the home they share the scene erupts into violence withy the cop Nicola storming out while his wife is left badly shaken inside. Taking a shower to calm herself down the lady is then murdered by an unseen assailant. With witnesses overhearing the argument and noticing Nicola leaving the apartment bloody and dishevelled suspicion falls at the cops door. Though unhappy about having to condemn one of his own the Chief of Police reluctantly puts out a warrant for Nicola’s arrest. A criminal psychologist and close friend of Nicola’s however believes there to be an altogether different explanation for the slaying.
As things progress the psychologist along with one of her students from a local college come to believe that an imprisoned rapist and killer from years ago could instead be responsible. Trouble is they may have difficulty proving the theory seeing that the man is thought to have perished in a fire whilst under lock and key.
Good points: *There are some strong locations featured throughout which is ultimately what stood out for me as being the best thing on show. Firstly there’s a tense chase sequence in what looks to be an abandoned theatre. Shortly after student Carol, our final girl, is similarly menaced while inside a natural history museum. This makes for a great setting with stuffed birds and such being ever present in the background behind glass screens. It was a creepy location and it was a shame more of the action didn’t take place here.
Elsewhere there’s an attack within a lingerie shop which like with the museum isn’t something you see too often.
Finally and most notably an empty hotel is used for the finale to very good effect. As the Shining has proven these abandoned hotel type setting can be very spooky and that’s the case here once the more traditional slasher type moment begin to play out. Said moments are mostly saved for this closing location which makes for a pacey finish.
*The mystery aspects, though probably simple by typical giallo standards did successfully pull the wool over my eyes as I was surprised by the revelation at the end. I’m sure many would guess it beforehand but as it caught me off guard it left me with a more positive feeling and kind of an “Oh that was a bit better than I thought then” type feeling.
*The final girl who turned out to be the daughter of the police inspector was a solid addition and was a character I liked above the others which surely means they’re doing something right. Her two friends though not seen as often were fun to watch as well with Monica making an impression in the hotel scenes in particular with the whole whisk thing.
Bad Points: *On a couple of occasions there are small parts where I wasn’t sure what the filmmakers were trying to put across. At one point I remember Nicola sneaks into what I think was the university /college but I wasn’t sure what he was supposed to be doing there. Later Anna’s teaching assistant is doing the same at the college or possibly the police station and he goes as far as to take something which is presumably important out of a cupboard or desk. Maybe it’s just me being dense and a re-watch would clear it up. I didn’t know what either character was doing though on first look and it didn’t seem to be explained later. Surely a better job could have been done here of making their intentions more apparent?
On a related note about the story writing it seemed a bit too far fetched that Anna would only have three students in her class yet would still have a teaching assistant type figure to help her teach them.
Another problematic area is that I felt the story was too light when it came to the backstory of the incarcerated criminal thought to have died in a fire. I’m not sure but I think his name may have been Franco. Though there is some brief chatter about his origins and past misdemeanour’s it never goes into enough detail for my liking. I was left feeling like I didn’t know enough about him. In fairness there is a newspaper article shown at one point relating to him which may have explained more though the English subtitles didn’t extend to this.
*With giallo’s generally known for their violence and over the top death sequences, this one by comparison feels very understated. This is likely down to it being a made for TV movie so I guess they were working under restrictions and couldn’t push the envelope as much as they perhaps would have liked. The deaths aren’t terrible by any means with the first one actually being rather brutal but it does go downhill after this. As it progresses it becomes more tame with the blood sometimes looking like paint. It’s not a deal breaker but a disappointment never the less.
Verdict: A middle of the road type entry into the giallo/slasher canon which isn’t bad by any stretch but at the same time doesn’t ever do enough for me to rise above mediocre. I’m not really into giallo’s all that much anyway so someone who is will probably take more enjoyment from it. For my taste though it’s just average.
I did like some of the settings and cinematography, visually it’s a very appealing looking film and there’s a few likeable characters. Story-wise though I found it lacking a bit in the backstory of one of the purported villains plus the gore isn’t on par with a lot of the other Italian genre films.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Nicola’s wife: Stabbed multiple times with small ice pick.
2)Woman in theatre: Stabbed with ice pick weapon as with number 1 but not as brutal.
3)Nicola: Shot dead by policeman.
4)Store clerk: Chokes to death after lingerie is forced into her mouth.
5)Monica: Stabbed in the back.
6)Giola: Beaten to death with fireplace poker (partially off camera with it being shown in silhouette).
7)Anna: Shot by Inspector Terzi.
Review added on the 14th of November 2020.