(Release Date: February 1983)
I didn't know whether it was porn or not, I just, you know, hoped it was porn. It turns out, it was horror. Surprisingly, I really liked the film, in spite of the fact that I should have been remarkably disappointed, especially considering my "thing" for Meg Tilly, who does not appear in any nude scenes in this film. To be fair, I hadn't yet seen PSYCHO II, so I didn't yet know what I was missing. You know, kind of like if your friends wanted to take you to a Pink Floyd concert at Hirsch Memorial Coliseum, but it turned out they actually had tickets to see Pretty Boy Floyd at Fatso's and you're a bit let down, but you haven't really listened to Dark Side of the Moon, so you don't really know what you're missing, but after you watch The Wall and, separately, plan out a video for "One Of These Days" in your head, loosely based on the "Walk This Way" vid from the mid-80s and you think to yourself "Damn, I really wish that had been Pink Floyd instead of Pretty Boy Floyd and that I had realized the lead singer was a guy before I went home with her!" Yeah, it's kind of like that. I think I'll watch Psycho II again!
Man, I did that thing again, didn't I? Anyway, like I said, I actually was surprised to have liked One Dark Night. Would I still dig it all these whacked years later? We all have those films from yesteryear that pickled us tink when we first saw them, but have festered like a compost heap to reek in ways unsmelled since Dinosaurs soiled the Earth. Surprisingly, while One Dark Night is by no means a cinematic achievement on filmic par with curing genital herpes (far from it), it's still fun to watch and far from the canned offence found in most micro-budgeted flicks of the day.
Before I go on, I should point out that with a title like "One Dark Night", viewers from mid-2008 (hey, I remembered the digits there) forward, might expect an appearance of some kind by Batman, especially if the title is read really, really fast. Anyway, before I belabor this joke much longer than I have, there actually is an appearance of Batman in One Dark Night, true believers, in the form of Mr. Adam West. Can't you just picture Adam West seeing previews for The Dark Knight (years after this film wrapped production) and mumbling "Will these insults never cease?" No, seriously, One Dark Night is a bit of a Zombie Flick of sorts. I stress the "a bit of" and "of sorts", because this one is as debatable as the suggestion that I'm funny.
So here's the plot: A really creepy Russian Student of Evil named "Raymar" dies while murdering six women (meaning he deserved it). Hints of the true extent of his powers start to arise as his sole heir, a daughter named Olivia McKenna (Melissa Newman), attempts to settle all the affairs of his estate (with, of course, the full resources of her husband Allan [West] and his Batcave [not pictured]).
Meanwhile, in what seems, at first, to be a completely unrelated film, we're introduced to Meg Tilly's cute high-school kid (she was in her 20s when this was filmed) Julie Wells. Julie's ambition du jour is to become the fourth member of a super-selective three-girl clique called "The Sisters", populated by BFFs Carol (Robin Evans), Kitty (Leslie Speights) and Leslie (Elizabeth "E.G." Daily).
Okay, so, like Carol totally used to date Julie's current main-squeeze Steve (David Mason Daniels), who thinks that Carol is like this total bitch now, even though she really wants him back and implies she's willing to do lots of "OMG" Kinky things for him and he, like, just doesn't get why Julie would want to join "The Sisters" anyway and he's skeptical about Carol's motives, and he SO totally should be because, like, Carol, or whatever, has this creepy plan for Julie's initiation into "The Sisters" that is sure to alienate and humiliate her like any random non-Heather from the movie Heathers!
What does this plan entail? Why Elementary, my dear Flotsam, they're going to force Julie to spend One Dark Night in a Mausoleum, lightly drugged, while they pull some Halloween Lock-In style pranks to scare the pants off of her (I wish). Okay, Okay, Okay, so it's "The Guiding Light" meets "90210" meets "Tales from the Crypt"!
Okay, kids, now see if you can guess who was so recently interred in the mausoleum that sweet, sweet Julie is convinced to spend the night in? No, seriously, just guess! Okay, I'll give you a hint: he's famous, evil, dead, can re-animate things with his mind, suck the life force from the living and has a daughter who married a Caped Crusader.
Did you guess, yet?
Needless to say, mayhem ensues! Strangely, I always pictured a high school romp starring Meg Tilly in an all-nighter turning out way differently! I didn't picture armies of the undead floating around and killing people, lit by an eerie glow while some psychic dead guy with an Aleister Crowley hard-on gives the most electrifying performance of his zombie career.
Okay, yeah, so it sounds a little cheesy, and in many places, it is, but considering the independent nature of this film and the small budget they had, much of this is excusable when a good eye is lent to this film's accomplishments. Director Tom McLoughlin (who co-wrote this film with Michael "Big Fuzzy" Hawes) keeps the plot interesting and even thrilling, in spite of the fact that the story could probably fill up a half-hour of any show sporting a title that starts with Tales from the... The special effects team and the makeup group both make do with the financial allotment that they had and they succeed in most every place it counts. Further, the characters are far from paper-thin and remain consistent and generally well-acted. There's even an appearance from Kevin Peter Hall himself! Lastly, this is all handled with a low-level of sensationalism or cheap gratuities. Yes, this is a low-budget horror flick like may of the age, but the discriminating viewer could do a lot worse.
So, what makes this a "Zombie Flick"? A bit of coincidence and a bit of hair-splitting. The real threat here is telekinesis and, like the heroine of Carrie, the telekinetics of One Dark Night use what they have handy to throw at their enemies! In a mausoleum, that which is "handy" would be an ass load of reanimated dead bodies. So... whether this qualifies as your "according to Hoyle" risen corpse of the Zombie sort probably depends on the way you qualify "according to Hoyle"!
A quick note on the Shriek Show double DVD of the film. There are points at which the movie sounds and looks good, however, there are as many places where film scratches and soundtrack flaws interrupt the generally flawless digital print we expect on DVD. I'll tell you this, though, it sure beats watching it on your Dad's old top-loading Beta VCR with the padded brown trim around the "Zenith" symbol. It might not be as pretty as some of the discs you may pick up, but it looks and sounds better than it has since its theatrical release.
In truth, you might well be disappointed if you're comparing One Dark Night with similar films like Poltergeist or The Evil Dead or even Psycho II (for obvious and delicious reasons), but taken for what it is, One Dark Night is pretty good, lots of fun and worth somewhere in the Mausoleum of Three Stars out of Five! And that's not so bad, Pilgrims! In short, don't go into One Dark Night with the expectations one might have for a Pretty Boy Floyd show when you're thinking of Pink Floyd, but if you're willing to make a horror compromise and accept something like "Tales from the Dark Side of the Moon", I'll bet you DVDs to Beta Tapes your time won't be wasted. See you floating Zombies in the next reel where One Dark Night is sure to light up with a Raymar of sunlight!
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