Most of my favorite horror films usually aren't horror films in the conventional sense. For instance, you'll usually find "Deliverance" filed under drama, but at its core it's a very human horror story, even sharing some lightly diluted Poe-esque themes. It's impact on popular culture demonstrates its worth as a horror film. It is the innovator of campground anxiety. It preys on a common fear of isolation, the unknown, and ignorance itself. If you've ever been out in the wild with friends, either roughing it or rafting, you will inevitably hear someone in your party mimicking the "dueling banjos" theme through nervous laughter. And while the events which occur in "Deliverance" are pretty unlikely to happen to you, they're certainly more capable of happening than a marrow sucking beast roving the urban sewers.
Though outlandish at points, J. Lee Thompson's "10 to Mignight" has some basis in reality, borrowing from the real life horror of nurse slasher Richard Speck. It's not a pure horror film in the traditional sense, but that's what makes it so great. You could actually call this one a hybrid horror-action, throwing a conventional slasher into the center of an urban cop drama. The film's basic themes will ring familiar to any fan of Charles Bronson, who stars here as the film's hero, Detective Kessler. While common sense has pointed him in the proper direction of a senseless killer, a system which seems like it's practically been designed to protect the guilty prevents him from nailing the creep. Frustrated by the system, Kessler breaks his ethical code and fakes evidence to put the guilty party away, but when his manipulation of the circumstances comes to light, it sets the maniac free to kill again.
Bronson has some truly incredible moments here, such as his interrogation of the primary suspect where he holds up the fake vagina he found in his apartment and shouts damningly, "you know what this is Warren?! It's for JERKING OFF!" However it is Gene Davis ("The Hitcher," "Cruising") as naked serial killer Warren Stacy who really steals the show. The scenes where Warren stalks and stabs his victims while completely nude are pushes from strange into the realm of surreal by Thompson's choice to shoot them in a dream-like style. Where Davis really shines though is during his vengeful prank calls to Kessler's daughter, Laurie. Absolutely unforgettable!
The film is augmented by performances by Andrew Stevens, Wilford Brimley, and Geoffrey Lewis. Check out the trailer courtesy albadeimorti: