Midnight Peepshow had its world première at FrightFest 2022
The title Midnight Peepshow not only offers a titillating promise of after-hours voyeuristic smut, but also advertises the film’s status as a ‘midnight movie’. It will deliver both. Set late at night in Soho, London’s one-time centre of sex, sleaze and sin, and taking place on Valentine’s Day, this tightly interwoven anthology of three episodes and a wraparound narrative is certainly focused on errant (as opposed to romantic) eros.
The wraparound, directed by Ludovica Musumeci, follows drunken, distraught financier Graham White (Richard Cotton) clinging to a photograph of his wife Isabel (Sarah Diamond) while on a self-destructive binge through Soho late at night. After meeting with his colleague Miles (Mark Hampton) in a hotel bar, and warning him off getting involved in lucrative sexual fantasy (dark)web-site Black Rabbit, Graham scores some heroin and staggers into Midnight Peepshow, a neon-lit establishment run by a Madame (Chiara D’Anna), where in three different booths he will bear witness to three different stories, all connected directly to Black Rabbit, and snaking back eventually to Graham himself and his own remote but significant part in the horror that has unfolded.
In Airell Anthony Hayles’ Personal Space, the home life of an unhappy couple (Roisin Browne, David Wayman) is violently disrupted by an intruder (Ocean M. Harris), in a love triangle that rapidly spirals out of control – for the cameras. In Andy Edwards’ Fuck Marry Kill, the captive Helen (Miki Davis) is forced by an unseen Games Master (Zach Galligan) to face life-affecting dilemmas about three men from her past (Jack Fairbank, Jamie Bacon, Derek Nelson) who are all awful in different ways. In Jake West’s The Black Rabbit, Graham tries to save his much younger, more sexually adventurous wife Isabel after she offers her services (as ‘Jezebel’) to the secretive website, and falls into the clutches of the Black Rabbit (Ryan Oliva) and the Cheshire Cat (Bethan Walker). Yet Graham himself is a part of this organisation, and must himself pay a price for what he has done.
“Addictive, isn’t it? We just want to see more, even though we know what nightmares await us,” Isabel – or is it Jezebel? – tells Graham just before he watches, unfolding through a peephole, his own traumatic history with her. “If we can’t handle what we see, there’s always a price to pay for looking.” These words are also, of course, addressed to us, as viewers and willing consumers of Midnight Peepshow itself. For the film knows exactly what it is, openly prostitutes itself to us as being just that, and then holds up a looking glass in which it invites us to see ourselves exposed and shown up for who we really are. In this respect (and others too), these torrid tales of sex and violence, porn and torment, are like James Wan’s Saw (2004), Eli Roth’s Hostel (2005), Srdjan Spasojevic’s A Serbian Film (2009) and even (especially) Olivier Assayas’ Demonlover (2002). For it teases out the hidden connections between dark desires and perverse paraphilias, consumerist spectatorship and corporatised entertainment – and lures us in with its sexiest bits and most attractive angles before judging and condemning us for enjoying, not to mention funding, the whole show.
Gaudily stylised as an endless come-on to viewers, Midnight Peepshow also presents a very ugly picture of their (our!) passing trade. For Graham’s walk on the wild side is all at once a dark journey down memory lane and (implicitly) an OD-induced guilt trip, where the nexus of all those affected by this investor’s past decisions comes back to haunt him in his final moments on the Soho back-alleys. Here, sex sells, money talks and looks can kill. For the viewer, as much as for Graham, the seduction and corruption have already happened – and it may be too late.
strap: The Valentine’s Day-set, eros-themed anthology stages forbidden fantasies in a Soho Wonderland, with dark (if neon-lit) consequences
© Anton Bitel