Spending a good chunk of my childhood in the Netherlands, I get a special twinkle of nostalgia whenever I watch something Dutch. Unfortunately, the Dutch haven’t produced much material appropriate for Mondo Exploito (I’ve only reviewed one Dutch film since the beginning of the site), but every now and then something blood-drenched and demented is dropped in my lap. Like Half Past Midnight!
HALF PAST MIDNIGHT
Netherlands, 1988, Wim Vink
Half Past Midnight is only half an hour long. Wim Vink — director, writer, and make up artist — clearly shot it for not all that much money. The story is very straightforward. Debbie (Angelique Viesee), attractive but awkward high schooler, is relentlessly bullied by her dickish classmates. Her teacher (Ad Kleingeld) at first seems sympathetic, but it’s not long before we realise that his apparently sympathetic stares are actually lecherous. After taking her out on a lovely date and romancing her, he rapes her.
Taunted by her peers, abused by her teacher, things couldn’t get any worse for Debbie. But they do. Leaving school, her classmates spray something from an aerosol can in her face. Blinded, she walks into traffic and is hit by truck. She survives, but then a nurse — the horrible mother of one of the bullying classmates — injects her eye with poison. What a shit nurse! Debbie dies. And then comes back to life! She kills everyone.
Simple and derivative as it is, Half Past Midnight is enormous fun. The bullies are truly despicable and, even though they take things absurdly far, weirdly believable. I think this is in part thanks to Vink’s attention to detail. In a recurring motif, one of the tormentors constantly takes photos of Debbie in compromising situations — from earlier, less extreme moments when she scrambles to collect her school books to her bloodied unconscious body as it lies on the road hit by a truck. The photo snapping is unsettling and brings to mind modern schoolyard bullying.
Half Past Midnight is light on dialogue but heavy on wailing guitars. Synthesized music by composer Rob Orlemans booms over the vision — even if the scene is just a montage of students taking a test, or someone eating a sandwich. It’s all very loud and obnoxious, and perfectly suited to the film’s tone and direction.
We know exactly where Half Past Midnight is heading from its opening moments, and Vink delivers with Debbie’s violent and satisfying revenge. Chainsaws whir. Guts spill. Everyone gets what’s coming to them. There’s a lot of blood.
Half Past Midnight is like a raw and simplified Carrie. There’s no telekinesis or tampon throwing. There’s no hyper-Christian mother. There’s just Debbie, a chainsaw, and an overbearing music score. I’m not sure why it’s called Half Past Midnight. It should have been called Debbie. See this.
As far as I know, Half Past Midnight has never been released on DVD. It is only available on VHS — and a very rare VHS at that. That’s too bad. I demand a Wim Vink DVD set.