Italian cop Nicola (Leonardo Treviglio) knows his wife, Sarah, is having an affair when he spies her buying sexy black panties at a lingerie store. After a heated argument in which she stabs his shoulder and he almost strangles her, Nicola flees the scene and seeks solace with an old friend: criminal psychologist Professor Anna Berardi (Valeria D’Obici). Meanwhile Sarah is stabbed to death in the shower by an ice-pick wielding assailant. Inspector Terzi (Paolo Malco) is assigned to the case. He immediately singles out Nicola as prime suspect but as more murders follow, Anna is adamant her friend is innocent. She believes the killings are the work of Franco Tribbo, a murderous maniac nicknamed the “Midnight Killer” (or maybe not, see below). Except, Tribbo died in a hospital fire several years ago.
Neither the best nor the worst Lamberto Bava has to offer, Morirai a mezzanotte confounds from its title alone which translates as “To Kill At Midnight”, sports the international title You’ll Die At Midnight and is alternately known as Midnight Killer even though the subtitles dub the murderer the Midnight Ripper. All of which is moot given our maniac does all his killing in the daytime. Go figure. Whatever one chooses to call it, the film is of interest primarily for the way in it lifts thematic and stylistic motifs from the key Eighties horror-thrillers of Brian De Palma. Even though the De Palma/giallo influence was always something of a two way street the plot device of an adulterous wife, the inclusion of an obvious hommage to the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s, the switch from one protagonist onto another, an emphasis on voyeurism as when a peeping tom spies on a girl practicing aerobics in another apartment, and a lengthy stalk and slash sequence that turns out to be a dream, collectively suggest Bava was riffing on Dressed to Kill (1980) and Body Double (1984).
It has been suggested the work of Lamberto Bava suffers by comparison with that of his father, Mario Bava, not because he was a lesser talent but because the stylistic conventions of Eighties Italian exploitation cinema were less forgiving to the absurdities of the giallo genre, with their shrieking electro-pop soundtracks and Dynasty inspired fashion crimes. Actually, Bava does a fair job sustaining suspense throughout with his sleek set-pieces and sinewy, subjective tracking shots, but the film proves frustratingly inconsistent. Frequent lapses in logic, some clumsy false scares, and heavy-handed misogyny (in particular the patronising psychological explanation for the killer’s motive at the finale) conspire to foil the fun. Co-written by Bava and veteran horror scribe Dardano Sacchetti, the offbeat story structure switches from ostensible leads Anna and Inspector Terzi onto the policeman’s plucky teenage daughter, Carol, played by genre regular Lara Wendel. Indeed one of the film’s many alternate titles was Carol Will Die At Midnight.
The strange structure is initially intriguing but prevents viewers growing emotionally involved with any of the characters. Toothy Valeria D’Obici is an ineffectual, underwhelming need while co-star Paolo Malco essays an absolute dunce. He shoots down every lead they find and quite often seems disinterested in the case, despite mounting deaths. Only the taut suspense scenes are likely to keep viewers awake throughout an otherwise listless murder mystery, though even these throw up the occasional howler such as the scene where one victim wields an electric whisk as a defensive weapon. Which, unfortunately, only gives the killer ideas.
Italian director/producer and son of legendary horror auteur Mario Bava. Began working as an assistant to his father on productions such as Planet of the Vampires and Baron Blood, and co-wrote Mario's final film Shock. Made his directing debut in 1980 with the effective chiller Macabre, which were followed by exploitation favourites A Blade in the Dark, Blastfighter, Delirium and two gore-laden Demons movies, both produced by Dario Argento. Bava's subsequent work has largely been for Italian TV, his last theatrical film being 1991's duff Body Puzzle.