The Dark [1979]

The Dark

Who or what is the terrible menace? Serial killer? Zombie on the loose? Destructive alien lifeform sans motive? Movie poster and text crawl spoilers aside, discover the horrible truth only by watching The Dark!

By no means is this movie high brow, top tier material, but it’s not bottom of the barrel either. It’s flawed in its execution, but still less torturous than comparable pictures. It’s derivative, trend riding, B-movie schlock, but at least it’s not Z-grade, no budget, poorly dubbed foreign fare.

In the audio/video department, The Dark is technically sound, and despite allegations of excessively dark cinematography, the film is primarily watchable, at least in an aesthetic sense. While the soundtrack may leave something to be desired, the audio itself is clear and the speech intelligible. Compositionally, this movie is also a strong performer, featuring various angles and tracking shots that wouldn’t be attempted in lesser budget offerings.

The Dark also has the dubious advantage of cast, featuring reputable actors William Devane (Knots Landing), Philip Michael Thomas (Miami Vice), and Kasey Casem (Scooby-Doo, American Top 40). While there may not be any heavy hitting star power, the acting works well enough for this style of film and is surprisingly palatable.

Where this flick stumbles is that it has no idea what it is, or where its going. Despite the initial and temporary involvement of Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), the direction, and (especially) writing simply falls flat. None of the characters are particularly interesting, and none of the investments or set ups ever really pay off. The Dark is one of those movies where things are constantly happening, but the action is always divorced from any true context. Things keep advancing, yet not due to any particular involvement by any of the main characters. It’s almost as if the antagonist and protagonists never collide, although they’re ostensibly in the same universe. Dick Clark’s odd role of co-producer did apparently little for creative oversight, as the plot tries to go in multiple opposing directions.

The production is similarly found wanting in the special effects department, which are not only sloppy and clearly Star Wars influenced, but have an awkward glue-on feel, which isn’t the only aspect of this motion picture that is artificial and contrived.

The Dark is dogged by its many forced-fit, pasted together segments and shoehorned tropes. Regardless of ambiguous psychic help (no, not from Philip Michael Thomas!), and the lack of any solid police work, somehow all the relevant characters find their way from point A to point B. Along the way, we’re treated to arbitrary jump scares, a nonsensical car chase, a laughable montage, and the obligatory hero saves the day moment, which ends up being very clumsy, anti-climactic, and improbable (not to mention being stupidly risky and ill-advised).

What The Dark has going for it is that it falls into that narrow sweet spot of not being abysmal enough to be punishing, yet still bad enough to provide a certain classless entertainment. It’s likable as a brain-dead, vapid, train-wreck of a flick, prime for late-night witticisms among friends, or snarky Youtube commentaries. Which, let’s face it, is really the primary impetus behind B-movie fandom amongst today’s Ironic Generation.

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About Etienne LaFitte

Let's go bare-knuckle!
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