Judge Dennis Prince warns you to...wait for it...be afraid of The Dark.
Apparently, in space, no one can hear you say, "What the f***??!"
The slipcase boldly proclaims, "From the director of Kingdom of the Spiders." Ack! Run!! Well, perhaps you liked that little drive-in ditty. Honestly, it was kinda fun to see Capt. Kirk trade in his U.S.S. Enterprise capri-style pants and black boots for genuine Arizona denim and pointed-toe shit-kickers to stomp the crud out of a desert full of creepy crawlies. OK, we'll give the director, John 'Bud' Carlos (no relation to Larry 'Bud' Melman) a hall pass on that effort but clearly he's gonna have to do some detention for this confused mess of a monster-alien-police farce, 1979's The Dark.
Seems some strange things are going on in the Hollywood hills…well, stranger than usual. People are losing their heads at a steady rate of one per night. Seems some unknown perpetrator has set up a "chop shop" in the dark of night and is mutilating random victims before popping off their noggins. The L.A.P.D. can't make heads nor tails of the sudden string of murders, and their lead investigator Detective Dave Mooney (Richard Jaeckel, Salvage) looking as if he's struggling with a hellacious bout of constipation throughout the ordeal. His intestinal affliction is made worse when former convict turned novelist Steve Dupree (William Devane, The Missiles of October) starts his own investigation after his daughter has been claimed as a victim. Mooney grunts and grimaces at Dupree but we're not sure why. Local TV reporter Zoe Owens (Cathy Lee Crosby, That's Incredible!) is nipping at everyone's heels as she tries to be the first to scoop the grim goings-on while similarly giving fits to her grouchy boss, TV station manager Sherman Moss (Keenan Wynn, The Bastard). Each of these cardboard characters wanders about aimlessly without purpose or progress until a psychic aligns their stars with the questionable insight that the killer is an alien from another planet that must mutilate a victim each night in order to gain strength. And, now that more than 60 minutes has elapsed before we learn this startling fact, we just don't care.
This film sucks…bad. It's largely a study in boredom where lifeless characters do uninteresting things and a creature that's billed to be a horrendous "mutilator" merely succeeds in chewing up our time. Despite the pasted-on R rating, there's nothing much edgy going on here. The one on-screen beheading is mildly effective yet is filmed from long distance so gore hounds will be left gnashing their teeth. No sex. No language. No drug use. Hey, where's the entertainment value here?!
OK. Truth be told, this is a film that should have been canned after day one. Originally, the story involved a zombie creature, a cannibalistic soldier from the 19th century, who returned to extract revenge or something like that. Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) was signed to direct but was fired almost immediately when he and the producers Edward L. Montoro and Derek Power failed to get along. Seeing how space stuff was all the rage with movie-goers of the day (considering Star Wars and the subsequent space shocker Alien), the call went out to anyone who could wrangle this crap-fest into some semblance of a finished product and John 'Bud' Carlos answered. In the end, we wind up with a film that features a creature from space—how it got here is never explained—that is intent on murdering humans—why it does so is only scantly explored—and looks like a grey-faced guy in bum's clothing who can unconvincingly shoot red lasers from his eyes. In space, a turd would presumably float yet certainly this one doesn't.
But, hey, remember this is from the director of Kingdom of the Spiders. Maybe you liked that one and would be willing to give this one a try, huh? Apparently, that's what the folks at Media Blasters thought, hoping they could ride the threadbare coattails of the spider flick (and even they are skulking behind a protective facade, marketing this one under the assumed imprint of Shriek Show). Well, the transfer here looks fine although the wonderfully precise digital medium exposes all the original graininess of the source material. It's a dark film—not in terms of tone but literally, it is dark—so you can expect to slog through far too many sequences of murky muddiness that only exacerbates the source deficiencies. The audio comes via a mediocre Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track. Extras include an audio commentary with director Carlos (he's affable about the whole sordid mess) and "fan" Scott Spiegel. There's also a current interview with Carlos where he further discusses how he was brought in as a sort of "hired gun" to complete the picture. The theatrical trailer is also present and—go figure—it looks better than the feature itself. The DVD keepcase is tucked into a nice cardboard slipcase (both featuring the film's key art) as if this were really something to shout about. Looking at the packaging is probably the most enjoyable experience to be had here, for whatever that's worth. Save yourself 92 minutes, though, and stay away from The Dark.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Media Blasters
• Audio Commentary
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