Wednesday, July 29, 2009

THE DARK (1979)

WHAT THE MONSTERS TAUGHT ME: No zombie walks in L.A.


That's not-so incredible; a beau chapeau-ed Col. Bat Guano; a foot-grounded reaching for constellations Quincy; the last whore-humper Vernon Washington; pre-cokehead Tubbs; an attempted Santa-cide; a proto-Tammy Faye; A DWPBA - Driving While Possessed by Alien; and stumbling mumbling incoherent horror. No, not the monster – William Devane.

More details here.


A string of grisly murders is keeping L.A. police detective Mooney (Richard Jaeckel) busy with his captain and the mayor breathing down his neck. And residents are getting worried about their safety while gangs led by Corn Rows (Philip Michael Thomas) take to the street to protest. But it’s a career boom for TV reporter Zoe Owens (Cathy Lee Crosby) who’s assigned the story by boss Sherman Moss (Keenan Wynn) who wants to exploit the tragedy for all it’s worth. Meanwhile, reclusive author Roy Warner (William Devane) takes the terror personally when the murderer kills his only daughter, and he urges the police to move faster before he puts the law into his own hands. And lastly kooky psychic De Renzy (Jacqueline Hyde – Really, that’s her name? Who is this broad?) sees visions of an unearthly creature killing innocents and realizes she’s next. As the investigation unfolds, the city’s criminal pathologist (Casey Kasem) determines through careful and scientific analysis that the killer is a zombie AND an alien, a revelation both he and I react to with “Zoicks!” So the press dubs the killer the “Mangler”, the cops become increasingly frustrated as the body count piles up, and the characters stand around, say stuff, and pretty much non-chalantly accept the fact that a unstoppable demon is wiping out multiple Angelos. After forty to fifty minutes of confusing time-filling crap, Zoe and Warner team up to help the cops find the creature with psychical assistance from the goofy De Renzy. They corner the laser-eyed monster, who is indeed a zombie alien (thanks, CSI), in some warehouse and the rousing action of the final “showdown” is so exciting I’ll guarantee that afterward you’ll go soak in a tub with a gallon of gin and search for a couple of veins to slit. Just be sure to leave the lights on.


Recently, I received several boxes of horror VHS tapes from a defunct video store thanks to a very generous and dear reader of Tremendo Time. The boxes contained mostly long-forgotten oddities from the 80s and 90s, most of which will be reviewed here at some point in time. So, to wrap up this month’s Monster Movie theme, I thought I’d dip my hand into this Cursed Box and select the first three monster movies as we head into the final stretch. The first one is today’s movie – The Dark. I'd never heard of it, and a quick internet research uncovered the following tidbits of information:

- The film was originally intended to be directed by Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), but he either quit or was fired on the first day of shooting.

- The movie was supposed to be a straight zombie story but test audiences didn’t react positively (shocking!) so the film was retooled into a monster/alien angle.

- The monster was at first supposed to be a slow adult with murderous tendencies, later made a zombie, then an undead alien with laser eyes.

-The Dark is also known as The Mutilator, even though the creature was called The Mangler in the script.

- William Devane was completely fried out of his gourd in this thing, but looks smart in a polka dot bathrobe.

But I didn’t need to research to come to the conclusion that this movie is horrendously dull, often incoherent at times, and crawls at the pace of a slow-motion snail who’s really pooped. Devane is the hero of the flick, but I honestly don’t know what he was going after with his stilted and just plain weird performance as the intense author too hip to chase monsters. The supporting cast is rather stellar including Latitude Zero’s Richard Jaeckel is that-guy fine as is old coot Wynn. But Cathy Lee’s acting talents are like a private joke. In every scene, she looks like she's on the verge of cracking herself up. The effects are virtually non-existent and the action scenes are far and few in between. This is all appalling in a breathtaking way. And thanks to dying VHS stores everywhere, new horrors of soul-wrenching ineptitude can be discovered, quipped, and ripped allowing plenty of time to weep in The Dark later.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ugh...used to see this pice of crap on KTLA years ago.