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Case Number 06073

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The Dark Power

VCI Home Video // 1987 // 81 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 27th, 2005

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All Rise...

Judge David Walks-With-The-Zombies Johnson will be honest with you: the White Man had this coming.

Editor's Note

Our review of Alien Outlaw / The Dark Power, published October 28th, 2011, is also available.

The Charge

Your appointment with fear!

Opening Statement

When you're faced with four marauding undead Native American witch doctors who have clawed themselves out of their graves to feast on human flesh, what are you going to do? Easy. Attack them with a bullwhip.

Facts of the Case

B-Western vet Lash LaRue stars in this low-budget horror movie from 1987. An elderly Native American man, who may possibly have ties to the mystical plane, croaks and leaves his house empty and waiting to be inhabited by college coeds.

A group of fun-loving girls (and one racist) rent the house. Despite the lack of modern-day amenities like a phone, the low price and convenient location are attractive features. Unfortunately, the new tenants are unaware of the local legend about the four evil sorcerers who buried themselves alive hoping to one day roam the Earth again.

When one of the girls invites her brother to live with them, the potential body count spikes as a flock of obnoxious alpha males pile into the house. As soon as the house fills up the "dark power" kicks in, and the quartet of zombie braves rise up, weapons in hand, and make ready to pick off the hapless coeds.
But there's one thing that these evil bastards didn't count on all those hundreds of years ago—an uppity forest ranger!

The Evidence

This is what I call a B-movie. Some great gore effects. A handful of despicable characters who are itching to die in creative ways. Some fun monsters. A crazy guy with a whip. These are the ingredients for a tasty dish of '80s trash.

Writer/director Phil Smoot throws in some fun blood effects. Lots of arrows fly into people and that's not too bad. But the real juice flows when the zombies get creative. Dig the one guy with the fuzzy upper lip getting his face peeled off. Or the poor schmuck who has his hand removed and gnawed upon. And then there's the climactic decapitation. Fun stuff.

The Dark Power is populated by a fun bunch of characters, most of whom are just asking to be wasted by the zombie witch doctors. Lynn (Cynthia Farbman) is the aforementioned racist; she and her brother are especially detestable, but in an over-the-top can't-wait-until-they're-plugged-with-an-arrow way. While the rest of the cast is largely disposable (save for LaRue), these folks-turned-fodder add to the humorous tone of the flick.

The four antagonists in this movie are pretty great. Sure, zombies gnawing on people isn't a terribly original concept, but these guys are damn funny. The make-up job is solid, especially with the lead zombie chieftain. This quartet is certainly not scary—though there are some nice jump scenes—but the tongue-in-cheek stuff works.

Lash LaRue!
This guy's one bad mofo! The opening scenes find him sleepwalking through the proceedings, but the second he storms onto the scene, trusty whip in hand, to face down the zombies, LaRue owns it. His "big whip vs. whip" showdown with the lead zombie is great fun. Yes, it's basically alternating scenes of the two snapping their whips with loud sound effects blasting away, but the gold is in LaRue's gruff, deadpan trash talk with an undead Indian sorcerer.

The Dark Power is not grand filmmaking. A quick glance at a capsule plot review would tell you that. The film is a scant 82 minutes long, though the front end meanders too much. Luckily, Phil Smoot gets to the nitty-gritty with plenty of time to spare, leaving a good thirty minutes for his splatter hijinks. This, mixed with some unique characters, a non-pretentious tone, and some sweet face-ripping, makes The Dark Power an amusing '80s horror romp.

VCI has crafted a loving tribute of a disc here. A newly adapted 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer suffers from occasional grain and uneven color, but for the most part it's a noteworthy visual presentation. The mono sound is surprisingly robust (for what it is), though the film's score—from what I can tell, one guy pounding away on a xylophone—does little to stretch it.

The extra features are very Lash LaRue heavy. A commentary track from Smoot and editor Sherwood Jones, while technical about the production in some spots, is heavily Lash-anecdotal. This is bolstered by a retrospect of Lash's career, consisting of a photo documentary narrated by Smoot. The stuff is handy for B-western fans or followers of La Rue, but as supplements to the movie The Dark Power, there really isn't much here.

Closing Statement

This would make a nice addition to any low-budget horror movie fan's collection. The Dark Power is funny and bloody and retro, and features the most on-screen whip action since…well, let's leave well enough alone.

The Verdict

The accused is—WHA-PSHA! WHA-PSHA!—hey get that thing away from me! I was going to say "not guilty!" Leave me alone!

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Scales of Justice

Video: 85
Audio: 80
Extras: 80
Acting: 75
Story: 85
Judgment: 81

Perp Profile

Studio: VCI Home Video
Video Formats:
• 1.66:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
• None
Running Time: 81 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Horror

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary with Editor and Director
• "Remembering Lash LaRue"


• IMDb

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