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RadioDrome Episode 12: Chris Gore: "The Twelfth episode of my radio show RadioDrome (Original airdate 03-24-11). Brad is out this week but I talk to Chris Gore, founder of Film Threat Magazine and he is far more open to some questions than most people in his place. " - Josh Hadley


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SEPTEMBER 11 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : HEART OF MIDNIGHT (1988)
From rogerebert.suntimes.com

`Heart of Midnight" is a horror film that descends into the depths of bizarre sexual behavior for no better reason than to see what it will find there. It finds a lot. The film opens with Carol, a troubled young woman moving into Midnight, a shuttered nightclub willed to her by her uncle, a mysterious figure who has disappeared. She hopes to reopen the club as an elegant nitery, even though the street it's on looks like a war zone, populated mostly by layabouts and sex fiends.

Carol, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, has pluck. She hires some workmen and sets about remodeling the main room of the club, even while she wonders what lurks behind the locked doors in the red corridor upstairs. At night, alone in the building, she is haunted by strange noises and unexplained events and by nightmares left over from a troubled childhood. Then a bunch of keys mysteriously appears outside her room, and as she opens the locked doors she finds that she has inherited a brothel in which every room was decorated to cater to a different kinky taste.

She sets to work rehabilitating the club. Daytimes are filled with the ominous presence of the workmen, who devote themselves to using large power saws in order to make deafening noises whenever she tries to give instructions. Nights are filled with false alarms, and then by a rape attempt when some of the local louts break in. Her only comfort comes when a stranger (Peter Coyote) materializes in the club. He says he's the detective assigned to investigate the break-in. Well, maybe he is.

Flashbacks reveal that Carol has lived on the edge of insanity since childhood, has survived two nervous breakdowns and believes that "making a go" of the club is her only hope of learning to cope with life. Besides, she tells Coyote, "I've always dreamed of running a sophisticated place, smoking cigarettes, leaning on the bar, firing the bartender if I don't like the way he operates." Coyote seems to be the only person in her life who believes she can achieve these dreams.

"Heart of Midnight" was written and directed by Matthew Chapman, whose previous film was the effective "Stranger's Kiss." That one told the story of a director (Coyote) making a movie with mob money and falling in love with his leading lady, the mobster's girlfriend. Coyote lived, or lurked, in an eyrie high up under the roof of the sound stage where he was working, and there also seem to be hiding spaces and hidden living quarters in the nightclub in "Midnight." Maybe Chapman likes the idea of secret rooms and voyeurism.

A lot of secrets are unveiled before the end of "Heart of Midnight," which it would be unfair to reveal, although I was intrigued by one character, a girl raised as a boy for reasons that the movie hints were thoroughly perverse. While such discoveries are indeed disturbing, much of "Heart of Midnight" is simply silliness, devoting itself to a series of false alarms in which strange noises mean nothing and Carol always is having to calm herself after her imagination runs away with her.

Other moments, however, are more gruesome, and as the mystery deepens we realize that Coyote is gifted at acting friendly while projecting danger. Leigh is at the center of most of the scenes, looking young and vulnerable and doing a fairly good job of not overplaying the melodrama. Chapman is a better director than he is a writer, and if the movie finally reveals itself as an overwrought shaggy dog story, the visuals and the use of the "Midnight" nightclub set do show that Chapman has a gift for atmosphere and suspense. I am not sure he knows where he's going with this film, but he gets there in style.

SEPTEMBER 11 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : HEART OF MIDNIGHT (1988)
From princeplanetmovies.blogspot.com

Heart of Midnight is an overlooked late 80s horror flick that is worth tracking down. It’s not your typical 80s horror movie at all.

This was the age of the slasher movie, and the gore movie. Film-makers no longer bothered with mood or atmosphere. If you have enough violence and enough gore, who needs atmosphere? But Heart of Midnight takes precisely the opposite approach. It relies almost entirely on atmosphere, and that’s its greatest strength. It also uses the approach brought to a peak of perfection by Robert Wise in his 1963 version of The Haunting, an approach that relies on the insight that what you don’t see is a good deal more frightening than what you do see.

Jennifer Jason Leigh is Carol, a young woman who’s had her share of problems. She’s had several breakdowns, and she has some major sexual issues. When her last boyfriend got too familiar with her she scratched his face so badly he ended up in hospital, and she had a complete breakdown and temporarily lost her hearing. Now she seems to be slowly getting herself back together. Her problem now is that she’s bored and aimless and fed up with her well-meaning but overwhelming mother (played in over-the-top style by Brenda Vaccaro).

So when she discovers she’s inherited a night-club from her uncle Fletcher, it looks like the opportunity she’s been waiting for. Instead of selling the club as her mother advises, she decides she’ll re-open it. And she’ll live there as well.

But it turns out that The Midnight was no ordinary night-club. It was a sex club combined with a brothel. And not just a sex club, but a club for kinky sex. For a young woman with sexual problem this might not seem like the ideal environment, but Carol finds the ambience oddly attractive. She is disturbed by many of the things she finds there, but drawn to them as well. The Midnight seems to attract certain influences, and it’s located in a very sleazy neighbourhood. Soon after moving in Carol is raped, but strangely this seems to increase her determination to stay.

The cop signed to investigate the rape soon proves to be a disturbing influence as well. He’s clearly taking an inappropriate personal interest in her, and she’s just as obviously becoming personally interested in him.

The Midnight is a club that seems almost to have a life of its own. Odd things happen, doors open and close for no reason, there are inexplicable noises. There is obviously a secret here, a secret that Carol will have to unravel.

Jennifer Jason Leigh is rather good as Carol. It’s a subtle performance that works well. The acting as a whole is good, with a couple of exceptions.

Most of the movie takes place in the club, and it’s a great setting. It’s tacky and sleazy but fascinating and it oozes with weirdness and unhealthiness, but it’s a nicely subtle weirdness and unhealthiness. There’s some very effective use of colour as well.

It was written and directed by Matthew Chapman. As a director he impresses me a lot. The build-up is handled superbly, with the tension slowly ratcheted up. For the first nine-tenths of the film he resists the temptation to be too obvious, or to go for cheap shocks. He lets the extraordinary atmosphere of the club itself do much of the work, and he doesn’t try to get too clever with camera angles. He gets some very creepy sequences by just keeping it simple, with effective compositions that don’t require clever tricks.

As a writer I’m less impressed by him. It may be simply because a couple of the major plot elements are ones that I personally consider to be excessively obvious and very over-used. And when he needs finally to resolve the mystery I felt that things stated to fall apart rather badly.

Despite these reservations the movie has more than enough pluses to compensate for the minuses, and it’s definitely worth a look.

Unfortunately it appears to have only been released on DVD in Region 2, and that release is now out of print (although copies can still be found - I managed to get hold of one).

SEPTEMBER 11 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : HEART OF MIDNIGHT (1988)
From en.wikipedia.org

Heart of Midnight is a 1988 American thriller film written and directed by Matthew Chapman and starring Jennifer Jason Leigh. The story follows a young woman with a troubled past who has a hard time dealing with the reality of her new surroundings. The original soundtrack for the film was composed by Yanni and it marks one of his first major recordings.

Plot : Carol (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a young woman recovering from her recent, although not the first, nervous breakdown. She has just inherited Midnight, an abandoned nightclub in a seedy neighbourhood that was previously owned by her recently deceased mysterious uncle Fletcher (Sam Schacht). She moves out of the home of her trashy mother Betty (Brenda Vaccaro) and into the nightclub and starts renovating it in hopes of re-opening it one day soon. However, she quickly finds out that things are not as they seem as she discovers a secret section of the club that was being used as a brothel catering to clients with sexually perverted tendencies.

Carol becomes a victim of rape at the hands of three burglars who break into the club. Due to her history of psychological problems, the police have a hard time believing that what she's telling them is the truth. She makes a friend in Lieutenant Sharpe (Peter Coyote), a detective who claims to have been sent in to investigate the break-in and who seems to believe her story. However, Sharpe is later revealed to be an impostor who was previously imprisoned because of Carol's uncle Fletcher.

Reception : The film received mixed reviews from critics with some praising the filmmaking and acting while others criticized the storytelling. Film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film two and a half stars out of four and proclaimed that "Chapman is a better director than he is a writer" as well as concluding that "I am not sure he knows where he's going with this film, but he gets there in style." Vincent Canby of The New York Times stated that "the dialogue is clumsy and the suspense is nil" and gave his reason for this by explaining that Carol is a "young woman who may or may not be crazy. This gives the director license to be bizarre without having to justify anything." Variety magazine noted in its review that the "performances are strong all around, particularly by Leigh and Vaccaro." Hal Hinson of The Washington Post noted that the storytelling is "haute macabre and hopelessly silly" but, at the same time, admits that "Leigh is a marvel." In spite of the generally agreed upon consensus that the story of the film was flawed, it still managed to win the Best Film award at 1989's Festival de Cine de Sitges.
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