Carol Rivers (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is what she describes as "delicate", having suffered a nervous breakdown recently, the culmination of a lifetime of mental disorder. But when her uncle dies, he leaves her his Midnight nightclub and enough money to get it renovated, which her mother Betty (Brenda Vaccaro) thinks she should sell and give the profits to her for safekeeping. Carol doesn't see it that way, and puts her foot down: this is her big chance to finally make something of herself, and if she fails so be it - but she just has to try.
Naturally, this being one of those horror movies, Carol is in for a harder time than she might have anticipated for the nightclub appears to be haunted, yet because she has a history of mental issues, what do you know? Nobody believes her when she says there's something sinister going on of course, as seen in oh so many thrillers of this stripe, and to be honest not exactly offered a fresh slant on the old material in this instance. In fact, the general reaction was that the best reason to watch Heart of Midnight was star Leigh, who went above and beyond the call of duty as was her wont to supply a fully rounded performance in a movie which was perhaps not really worthy of it.
Some find Leigh affected, and it was true if you were not a fan of her brittle, mannered style there was little to convince you that it was well deployed here, yet for the film it was, for what the story needed, she was spot on in bringing out the essential vulnerability of Carol. With such actorly affectations as an ankle in a cast, never explained but present to mirror her fragile mind, Leigh must have been a gift to writer and director Matthew Chapman for she truly lifted what could have been forgettable straight to video business to something that may not have had you thinking "Wow, that was great!", but it did have you responding to the terrible time Carol endures.
Part of that is when once she moves into the apartment rooms above the club, she begins to suspect this was no ordinary night spot, and there may have been dodgy dealings here of the more extreme sexuality variety. This is anathema to Carol, as the last time anyone tried to make love to her she almost scratched his eye out, which only serves to emphasise her arrested development which is soon taken advantage of when the builders notice her undressing through a window one nght and enter the establishment, then proceed to sexually assault her. She manages to raise the alarm, but the sole sympathetic ear she gets is from rape crisis centre worker Mariana (Denise Dumont) as the police (led by Frank Stallone, who sings) look at her history and are sceptical.
Nevertheless, they send a police detective around to see Carol, Sharpe (Peter Coyote), except maybe she's mistaken him for the cop and he isn't who he says he is: could he be behind the mysterious happenings around the club, which Carol hardly seems to leave? She is having nightmares, sure, but also we cannot be certain somebody else is flinging bicycles about or leaving apples around in a reversal of the Garden of Eden tale, where here it is Eve being corrupted by Adam. Carol being our innocent Eve, and the menfolk the nasty Adams, although Chapman decides to throw that theme out of the window for the grand finale which revealed all in a fashion that would have been better going with the ghost of her uncle as the culprit, because even that would be more convincing than the denouement we received. With a selection of by the numbers surrealism sequences to torment Carol, Leigh really made you care about what happened, willing her to lift the weight threatening to crush her. Music by Yanni.